Idaho moves closer to approving firing squads

A bill that would allow firing squads to carry out the death penalty in the state of Idaho is on Gov. Brad Little’s desk after the state Senate passed the measure by a veto-proof majority.

House Bill 186 passed by a vote of 24 to 11 on Monday and would allow a firing squad as a fallback method if the state fails to procure the drugs needed to perform the lethal injection. According to the idaho statesman, State Representative Bruce Skaug and State Senator Doug Ricks, both members of the GOP, sponsored the bill with support from fellow Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, a fellow Republican.

The bill states that the director of the Idaho Department of Corrections must certify the availability of lethal injection within five days of a death sentence being issued. If the warden failed to do so, or indicated that the deadly drug was not available, the inmate would be executed by firing squad.

The method of capital punishment was incorporated into Idaho law from 1982 to 2009, but never used.

The Idaho State Senate passes the Firing Squad Act
The Idaho State Capitol is pictured in Boise on May 23, 2021. The Idaho Senate on Monday passed legislation by a veto that would allow firing squads to carry out executions when the state cannot obtain drugs for lethal injections.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC images

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only four states — Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, and South Carolina — allow a firing squad when other forms of execution are unavailable. The Associated Press (AP) reported that South Carolina’s bill is on hold pending a lawsuit challenging the method.

The AP also wrote that while Little, a Republican, had previously spoken out in favor of the death penalty in his state, the governor did not comment specifically on HB 186. Senator Ricks said Monday that he believes death by firing squad is “humane.” way of carrying out executions.

“This is a rule of law issue — our penal system should work and penalties should be meted out,” Ricks said, according to the AP.

news week emailed Little’s office for comment.

The bill was prompted after Idaho failed to carry out the fall execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr., 67, who has been on death row for over three decades for his role in the 1985 killing of two prospectors. Pizzuto’s execution was scheduled for March 23, but a federal judge granted a stay after the state failed for a second time to obtain the necessary lethal drugs for injection. Pizzuto has terminal bladder cancer and is one of eight convicts on Idaho’s death row.

Skaug mentioned Pizzuto’s case when introducing the law last month, telling the state’s House Ways and Means Committee, “As it stands now, they may never get these lethal injection materials.”

State Senator Dan Foreman pushed the bill back from the Senate on Monday, he said statesman, that execution by firing squad would be “brutal” for all involved.

“I’ve seen the aftermath of shootings and it’s psychologically damaging to anyone who witnesses it. It’s, in a word, ‘brutal,'” said Foreman, a Republican. “And the use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho. We have to find a better way.”

Idaho Department of Justice director Josh Tewalt also previously said he would be reluctant to ask his staffers to participate in a firing squad, the AP wrote.

“As the director of the Idaho Department of Justice, I don’t feel compelled to ask my staff to do this,” Tewalt said. Idaho moves closer to approving firing squads

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