Idaho passes firing squad execution law

BOISE, Idaho–

Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law a bill allowing firing squads to execute death row inmates when lethal injection drugs are unavailable, making Idaho the fifth US state to allow the execution method.

The new law, which takes effect in July, will give the Department of Corrections up to five days after a death warrant is issued to determine whether lethal injection is available. If not, the department must carry out the execution by firing squad. Little signed the bill on Friday.

“While I am signing this bill, it is important to point out that fulfilling justice can and must be done by minimizing stress on corrections personnel,” Little wrote in a transmittal letter after signing the bill, as reported by the Idaho Statesman. “For the people on death row, a jury convicted them of their crimes, and they were legally sentenced to death. It is the responsibility of the state of Idaho to follow the law and ensure that legal criminal sentences are carried out.”

The news outlet said that a corrections department spokesperson did not immediately respond to its request for comment Friday evening.

States have faced difficulties obtaining drugs required for longstanding lethal injection programs. Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly having barred executioners from using their drugs, saying they were meant to save lives, not take them.

Idaho will join Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina as the states that authorize death by firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. South Carolina’s law is on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

The last inmate to be executed by firing squad in the US was Ronnie Lee Gardner. He was executed at Utah State Prison on June 18, 2010, for killing an attorney during a courthouse escape attempt. Utah is the only state to have used firing squads in the past 50 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Leo Morales, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, called the firing squad an “archaic and particularly gruesome execution method” in a statement quoted by the Idaho Statesman. Morales criticized the law as “a step backward,” as public support for the death penalty reached an all-time low.

“Instead of trying to reinstate the death penalty with a gruesome execution method, Idaho lawmakers should have kept the firing squad in the dust bin of history, where it belongs,” he said.

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