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Idaho's bill to execute death row inmates by firing squad moves to governor's desk

The bill would require a firing squad to execute a death row inmate if lethal injection is unavailable.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's bill to require a firing squad as a method of execution when lethal injection is unavailable is now headed to the governor's desk after a 24-11 vote Monday in the Senate.

The reason for bringing the bill, according to the original sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, is because Idaho is currently unable to obtain the drugs needed to carry out a death sentence by lethal injection. The firing squad would only be an option when lethal-injection drugs are unattainable.

The House approved the bill March 3 by a vote of 50-15-5.

In the Senate debate over the bill, many argued that another method should be considered. Some called it inhumane. Some said there "is a better way." According to the floor sponsor of the bill, Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, there was no debate about an alternative method to the firing squad.

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said a firing squad is barbaric, and Idaho lawmakers must have some type of restraint when making decisions for the state.

"I’m not arguing justice, I’m arguing how we bring justice about. And we, as a state, need to practice some type of restraint," Wintrow said.

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, said lethal injection is quiet, and the firing squad amounts to a "horror show." Some senators even commented on how traumatic a firing squad could be for the people who are performing an execution -- and how the state would have to take care of those involved.

Others said the bill isn't about the death penalty -- it's about being able to carry out Idaho law. 

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said lawmakers have the ability to make this as quick and professional as possible while still trying to uphold the death penalty.

"We are looking at an alternative method to carry out our current policy. That is all we are being asked," Lee said.

Sen. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, said he doesn't love the idea of the state executing people, but following through with the death penalty gives victims and the public more trust in the justice system.

"There aren't a lot of dignified ways to die," Adams said.

According to Jeff Ray, spokesperson for IDOC, the department doesn't have a current estimation of how much a firing squad execution would cost. Skaug's bill implies that $750,000 would be used for the Department of Correction to refurbish its facility in order to reinstate the firing squad.  

Idaho has never executed someone by firing squad, but the conversation arose when Gerald Pizzuto, who was set to be executed last year for a double murder in 1985, evaded the death penalty because the Idaho Department of Corrections lacked the drugs needed for the execution.

Regardless, the Idaho Attorney General's Office obtained a death warrant for Pizzuto, with an execution date set for March 23. HB 186 was introduced two days before the warrant. A federal judge on March 10 issued a stay of execution for Pizzuto because IDOC could still not accommodate the execution.

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