Idaho Poised to Allow Firing-Squad Executions

Bill is headed for governor's desk
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 20, 2023 3:07 PM CDT
Idaho Poised to Allow Firing-Squad Executions
The execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution is shown as Security Institution Warden Randy Blades looks on in Boise, Idaho on Oct. 20, 2011.   (AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner, File)

Idaho is poised to allow firing squads to execute condemned inmates when the state can't get lethal-injection drugs, under a bill the Legislature passed Monday with a veto-proof majority. Firing squads will be used only if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections—and one death row inmate has already had his scheduled execution postponed multiple times because of drug scarcity, the AP reports. Idaho previously had a firing squad option on the books but has never used it. The option was removed from state law in 2009 after the US Supreme Court upheld a method of lethal injection that was commonly used at the time.

Only Mississippi, Utah , Oklahoma, and South Carolina currently have laws allowing firing squads if other execution methods are unavailable, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A judge has put South Carolina’s law on hold until a lawsuit challenging the method is resolved. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has voiced his support for the death penalty but generally does not comment on legislation before he signs or vetoes it. Sen. Doug Ricks, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, told his fellow senators on Monday that the state's difficulty in finding lethal injection drugs could continue "indefinitely" and that he believes death by firing squad is "humane." "This is a rule of law issue—our criminal system should work and penalties should be exacted," he said.

But Sen. Dan Foreman, also a Republican, said firing-squad executions would traumatize the people who who carry them out, the people who witness them, and the people who clean up afterward. "I've seen the aftermath of shootings, and it's psychologically damaging to anybody who witnesses it," Foreman said. "The use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho."

(More firing squad stories.)

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