BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican Gov. Brad Little has signed a bill allowing the death penalty to be carried out by firing squad.
The The legislative body made a decision on March 20 with a veto majority. Under it, firing squads will only be used if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.
Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly banning butchers from using their drugs, claiming they were meant to save lives. One of Idaho’s death row inmates has already been put to death several times because of drug shortages.
The The shortage forced other states In recent years, the old methods of execution have been restored. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina have laws that allow firing squads if other methods of execution are not available. The South Carolina law is on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Some states have begun upgrading to the electric chair as a standby when lethal drugs are unavailable. Others have considered – and, at times, used – largely untested performance methods. In 2018, Nevada executed Kerry Dean Moore with a never-before-tried drug combination that included the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. Alabama has built a system to seat people using nitrogen to induce hypoxia, but it has not yet been used.
“In signing this bill, it is important to note that justice can and must be served by minimizing stress on correctional staff.” Little wrote in the transfer letter After signing the bill. “For those on death row, a jury convicted them of their crime and legally sentenced them to death. It is the responsibility of the State of Idaho to enforce the law and enforce legal criminal penalties. “
During a historic round of 13 executions in the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency, the federal government chose the sedative pentobarbital as a replacement for lethal drugs used in the 2000s. He issued a protocol allowing for federal death squads if necessary, but that method has not been used.
Some lawyers for federal inmates who ended up on death row argued in court that firing squads would actually be quicker and less painful than pentobarbital, which they say causes a choking-like sensation.
However, in a 2019 filing, US lawyers cited an expert who said that a person who was shot could remain conscious for 10 seconds and that it would be “extremely painful, especially with broken bones and spinal cord injuries.”
President Joe Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, ordered a temporary moratorium on federal executions in 2021 while the Justice Department reviews the protocols. Garland did not say how long the moratorium would last.
Idaho Sen. Doug Ricks, the Republican who sponsored that state’s firing squad bill, told his fellow senators Monday (3/20) that the state’s difficulty finding lethal injection drugs could continue “indefinitely” is “humane” and that the bill would promote the rule of law. provision.
But Sen. Dan Foreman, also a Republican, called the death penalty “unbecoming of the state of Idaho.” They traumatize executioners, witnesses and people who clean up afterwards, he said.
The bill originated with Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, in part prompted by the state’s failure to execute Gerald Pizzuto Jr. late last year. Pizzuto, now suffering from terminal cancer and other debilitating illnesses, spent more than three decades on death row for his role in the 1985 murders of two gold prospectors.
The Idaho Department of Corrections estimates it would cost about $750,000 to build or remodel the death chamber for the firing squad.
The agency’s director, Jeff Tewalt, said he is reluctant to ask his employees to participate in the firing squad.
Tewalt and former co-worker Kevin Kempf were instrumental in obtaining the drugs used in the 2012 execution of Richard Albert Levitt, who flew to Tacoma, Washington, with more than $15,000 in cash to buy them at a pharmacist. The trip was kept secret by the department but was revealed in court documents after University of Idaho professor Aliza Cover sued for the information under the Public Records Act.
During his campaign, Biden promised to work to end the death penalty nationwide, but he has remained silent on the issue as president. Critics say his approach risks sending a message that he is OK with alternative methods of enforcement by states.
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