Idaho bill could bring back execution by firing squad

A new Idaho bill would bring back firing squads as the state struggles to obtain lethal injection chemicals

Bevan Hurley
Monday 27 February 2023 10:35 EST
Bryan Kohberger arrives in court ahead of extradition hearing

Those sentenced to death in Idaho could soon face execution by firing squad under a new bill before the state legislature.

Lawmaker Bruce Skaug introduced the bill last week calling for the reinstatement of death by firing squad if lethal injection chemicals are unavailable.

Under the bill, the state’s preference would remain putting condemned prisoners to death intravenously, but if there is a delay of five or more days after the death warrant is issued, then a firing squad can be used.

The state cancelled the execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr in 2022 after the Idaho Department of Corrections had been unable to obtain the cocktail of chemicals used for a lethal injection.

“The way it stands now, they may never get those materials for the lethal injections,” Mr Skaug told the House Ways and Means committee, according to the Associated Press. “This is a rule of law issue: Our criminal system should work and our penalty should be exacted.”

US states have faced severe shortages in lethal injection chemicals for years as European countries and pharmaceutical companies have sought to restrict their access.

In 2021, South Carolina lawmakers voted to allow prisoners to choose between death by firing squad or lethal injection after its batch of lethal injections expired eight years earlier.

The legislation has since been challenged in the state courts. In January, the state Supreme Court ordered a lower court to get more information from the South Carolina Department of Corrections about its attempts to acquire lethal injection drugs.

The new legislation could be impactful in high profile cases such as the one involving Bryan Kohberger, who faces a capital murder trial over the gruesome stabbings of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin in an off-campus rental home in Moscow, Idaho, on 13 November.

Bryan Kohberger could be executed by firing squad if a new Idaho bill passes

Kohberger, 28, was arrested about six weeks later in Pennsylvania and extradited to Idaho where he is in custody awaiting his 26 June preliminary trial hearing. Should Kohberger be convicted, he could be sentenced to death as the death penalty is “considered the maximum penalty in Idaho when it comes to defendants who either plead guilty or are found guilty of first-degree murder,” per NBC affiliate King5.

Under Mr Skaug’s bill, the director of the Idaho Department of Corrections would work out the logistics of executing a death row inmate by firing squad, including the type of weapons used.

It still has to pass the Ways and Means Committee before going before Idaho’s House of Representatives for a vote.

Ronnie Lee Gardner was the last person to be executed by firing squad in the United States in Utah in 2010.

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