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Idaho governor signs bill to allow firing squad as an alternative form of execution


Idaho governor signs bill to allow firing squad as an alternative form of execution

Mar 25, 2023 | 10:35 am ET
By Mia Maldonado
Idaho governor signs bill to allow firing squad as an alternative form of execution
Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives his State of the State speech in the House chambers of the State Capitol building on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho will soon become the fifth state to authorize the execution of an inmate by firing squad.

Gov. Brad Little on Friday afternoon signed House Bill 186, adding a firing squad as an alternative method of execution when lethal injection is unavailable.

The new law would give the director of the Idaho Department of Correction up to five days after the issuance of a death warrant to determine if lethal injection is available. If the director does not indicate that lethal injection is available, then the department must execute someone by firing squad. 

The bill includes a a fiscal note estimating the state will need to pay $750,000 as a one-time cost for the department to refurbish its facility to execute someone by firing squad. 

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit that offers statistics on capital punishment, the four other states that authorize death by firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and South Carolina. Since 1976, there have been only three executions carried out by firing squad. 

In a transmittal letter, Little said that he has supported policies to allow the state to carry out an execution throughout his career, including in 2022 when he signed House Bill 658 a law that extends protections to suppliers and manufacturers of lethal injection drugs in Idaho.

“The families of the victims deserve justice for their loved ones and the death penalty is a way to bring them peace,” he said in the letter. 

State cannot obtain lethal injection drugs, correction officials have said

Little said he has not given up on the state’s ability to obtain the necessary chemicals to carry out an execution, and he believes carrying out the death penalty must be done while minimizing stress on corrections personnel.

“For the people on death row, a jury convicted them of their crimes, and they were lawfully sentenced to death,” he said in the letter. “It is the responsibility of the State of Idaho to follow the law and ensure that lawful criminal sentences are carried out.”

The bill passed both chambers of the Idaho Legislature with a 24-11 vote in the House of Representatives and 50-15 vote in the Senate.

“This would open Idaho up to lengthy, expensive legal challenges related to the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment,” House Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, tweeted shortly after the House vote.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, previously said while debating the bill that he believed death by firing squad is humane, and the new law would allow the state to carry out death penalty sentences.

Lethal injection has been the only legal form of execution in Idaho, but the state has been unable to carry out the scheduled execution of death row inmate Gerald Pizzuto Jr. because of difficulties obtaining the chemical Pentobarbital to carry out lethal injection, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported, 

Pizzuto, now 67, was convicted in 1985 for murdering two people in the first degree outside of McCall. There are eight people including Pizzuto on death row in Idaho, according to the IDOC website.

The new law will take effect on July 1.