Idaho House votes to add firing squad as an alternative form of execution

State officials have testified that Idaho is unable to obtain the chemicals to carry out lethal injections

By: - March 12, 2023 9:00 am
jail, prison, detention, incarceration

The Idaho House of Representatives has passed a bill to add a firing squad as an alternative method of carrying out the death penalty after the state was unable to procure the drugs for a lethal injection. (Photo by Alex Potemkin/Getty Images)

With state officials unable to obtain chemicals to carry out an execution by lethal injection, the Republican-controlled Idaho House of Representatives voted March 3 to pass a bill that would add the firing squad as an alternative method of execution.

Currently, lethal injection is the only form of execution allowed in Idaho. House Bill 186 would add the firing squad as an alternative method when lethal injection is unavailable.

Idaho Department of Correction officials were unable to obtain the chemical Pentobarbital to carry out the scheduled Dec. 15 execution of Gerald Pizutto. Pizzuto was convicted of the 1985 murder of Berta and Delbert Herndon outside of McCall.

Last week, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador announced the state had obtained a new death warrant for Pizzuto, and the Idaho Supreme Court rescheduled his execution for March 23.

However, Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson told the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on March 1 state officials are still unable to obtain the chemical Pentobarbital to carry out an execution by lethal injection.

The chemical is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and licensed physicians cannot prescribe it, Idaho Reports previously reported

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, said the state’s inability to obtain the chemicals for lethal injections effectively prevent the state from carrying out penalty sentences.

“The firing squad, in my opinion, is humane in part because it is certain,” Skaug said while debating in favor of the bill. “There is no case saying it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.”

Idaho has never executed anyone by firing squad, Anderson said. If the bill is passed into law, it would be up to Idaho Department of Correction employees to develop the policies and procedures for carrying out an execution by firing squad.

Across the United States, there have been three executions carried out by firing squad since 1976, and all three took place in Utah, Anderson said.

The Iowa Legislature is currently considering reinstatement of the death penalty. The bill, Senate File 357, specifies lethal injection as the method of execution.

In the end, the Idaho House voted 50-15 to pass the bill, with five Republicans and all Democrats present voting against it.

“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 vote.

House Bill 186 heads next to the Idaho Senate for consideration. If the Idaho Senate votes to pass the bill, it would be sent to Gov. Brad Little for final consideration. If the bill reaches his desk, Little could sign it into law, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it.

The bill is written so that it would become effective July 1 if it is passed into law.

This story was originally published by the Idaho Capital Sun, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: [email protected]. Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin is a reporter for the Idaho Capital Sun. He has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun, he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.