OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 1:30 PM – Tuesday, March 21, 2023
The Idaho State Senate passed a bill on Monday aimed at reviving the firing squad as a death penalty option.
House Bill 186, which passed the State Senate by a vote of 24-11, gives authorities the option to order execution by firing squad, if lethal injection drugs are not available within five days of when the death warrant was issued.
The bill comes amid a supply shortage of lethal injection drugs in the United States. Several states have recently struggled to obtain the drugs needed for the lethal injection. As a result, states have had to pause executions, along with facing lawsuits from inmates who argue that the lethal injection is inhumane.
Idaho has recently had to postpone the execution of Gerald Pizzuto twice, once in December 2022, and then again in the beginning of March, due to shortage of the drugs required for the lethal injection. Pizzuto has been on death row for nearly four decades for the 1985 slayings of two gold prospectors.
Representative Bruce Skaug (R-Idaho), who initially introduced the bill, spoke with Fox News about the its status.
“H186 has now passed the Idaho Senate and House with a veto proof majority,” he said. “Upon signature of the governor, the state may now more likely carry out justice, as determined by our judicial system, against those who have committed first degree murder. This is an important bill for victims, their families, and the rule of law.”
According to the Associated Press, opponents of the bill, which include Senator Dan Forman (R-Idaho), said that those assigned to the firing squad, the witnesses, and the cleanup crew are at risk of becoming traumatized from the experience.
“I’ve seen the aftermath of shootings, and it’s psychologically damaging to anybody who witnesses it,” Forman said. “The use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho.”
Edwina Elcox, a defense attorney from Boise, said that firing squad was “atrocious” and “inhumane.”
“Execution by way of firing squad is antiquated and bottom line, inhumane,” she told Fox News. “It is deeply concerning that Idaho is reverting to such barbaric methods.”
Idaho Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt had previously said that he would be reluctant to ask his staffers to participate in firing squad executions due to the traumatizing effects that it would have.
“I don’t feel, as the director of the Idaho Department of Correction, the compulsion to ask my staff to do that,” he said.
Kevin Kempf, the director of the Correctional Leaders Association, said that the process is always challenging for all who are involved, and those challenges would be amplified if executed by firing squad.
“I’ve got to say at the same time, my thoughts go to staff members that may have to carry out something, per law, that looks like putting someone to death,” Kempf told the AP during a phone interview earlier this month. “That is nothing I would assume any correctional director would take lightly, asking someone-slash-ordering someone to do that.”
The state currently has eight death row inmates. State prosecutors have decided not not rule out the death penalty in the case of Brian Kohberger, if he is convicted in the murder of the four University of Idaho students in November.
Four other states currently have the option of a firing squad. Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, and South Carolina can all choose to execute inmates by firing squad. However, all together they have only executed three prisoners by that method since 1976.
Other states have also had to look for other means due to the drug shortage, with some refurbishing electric chairs for when lethal injection is not available. In 2018, Nevada performed an execution with a drug combination that had never been used before, which included the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Alabama had developed a system to perform execution using nitrogen gas to induce hypoxia, although the method has not yet been used.
The Idaho Department of Correction estimated that it would cost around $750,000 to build a death chamber for firing squad executions. Officials also claimed that there would be likely just as many legal challenges to the firing squad as there are to the current methods that are being utilized.
President Joe Biden had also previously said during his campaign that he would work on ending the death penalty nationwide, however he has remained silent on the issue so far.
The bill is now headed to Governor Brad Little’s (R-Idaho) desk for a final decision. He has not made a comment on it.
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