Why Idaho is considering returning firing squads
Gerald Pizzuto Jr., a convicted murderer on death row in Idaho, received a temporary reprieve in December when the state allowed his death sentence to expire after failing to obtain the drugs needed for lethal injection, the state’s only legal method of capital punishment. Idaho.
Under a recently proposed bill, prisoners like Pizzuto could be shot.
According to to the bill Introduced last week in the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee, if lethal injection is not available within five days of a state handing down a death sentence, or if a court finds it unconstitutional, the state can use firing squad as an alternative form of execution.
“It’s a rule of law issue,” the spokesman said. Bruce Skaug, Republican, author of the bill, said at a committee meeting. “Our criminal system must work and our punishment must be carried out. When the promised and deserved death penalty must be applied properly.
The draft is in its infancy and there are several hurdles to overcome before being put to a vote, including public and committee hearings.
Idaho has never shot prisoners, although this method of execution was previously permitted. In 2009 the state canceled the practice, which he accepted as an option in 1982 to ward off potential legal appeals that could cost taxpayers money and delays, Senior Deputy Attie. Gene. Lamont Anderson argued at the time.
The latest move to allow firing squads represents a growing trend among states on death row to consider alternative forms of execution, as the use of lethal injection is plagued by access issues, litigation, and failed procedures.
Meanwhile, nationwide support for the death penalty is at a 50-year lowAlthough most Americans are still in favor of the death penalty. The executions themselves are on the decline.
The death penalty is legal in 24 states, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. (In California was imposed by the governor moratorium on death row as of 2019.)
Utah, Mississippi, Oklahoma and, most recently, South Carolina are the only four states to have adopted shooting as a secondary option, but such executions are rare: only three people have been shot in the past half year. century, all in Utah, most recently in 2010.
Since its introduction 40 years ago, lethal injection has become main method death penalty, partly because it was seen as most human form. But the Death Penalty Information Center Found out that seven out of 20 lethal injection attempts last year were unsuccessful – a record high – including “clearly problematic” procedures.
Some states also said they were having trouble acquiring needed lethal injection drugs after drug companies banned their products from being used in executions.
“All these other, older methods are scattered, little used, but still: it is, as it were, out of desperation. To execute, you need a method,” said Richard Dieter, acting executive director of the Death Penalty Clearinghouse. “The method is in motion right now.”
Deborah Denno, a Fordham University expert who has studied the death penalty for 30 years, said problems with lethal injections have helped states such as New Jersey and Virginia abolish death sentences, and in other states, such as California, a moratorium on executions was introduced.
“I’m surprised that more states don’t use firing squad,” Denno said.
With firing squads, states are unlikely to run into accessibility issues or botched executions, she said. Only two known cases of executions by firing squad went wrong: Wallace Wilkerson in 1879 and Eliseo J. Mares in 1951—two “accidental” incidents that Denno said occurred a long time ago and in a “historically different culture”.
But experts say the optics of firing squads is fraught, especially against the backdrop of mass shootings and a national debate about gun violence.
Rep. Lauren Necochea, the Democrat who voted against the bill on Wednesday, said she had an “internal reaction” to the idea and cited Idaho’s 2009 repeal of a never-used firing squad. Necochea said she was “more and more disliked” by the death penalty.
“I would oppose the justification of the return of the firing squad now as the expediency of carrying out death sentences,” she said. “When the stakes are so high, it’s smarter and slower to act.”
On Friday, the Idaho Department of Corrections served a new death warrant on Pizzuto, who was sentenced to death in 1986 for killing two gold diggers.
Pizzuto has been in hospice care since 2019, suffering from bladder cancer, heart disease and diabetes. (Idaho Board of Pardons and Paroles asked Governor Brad Little commuted his sentence to life in 2021, but the governor denied the request.)
Department of Corrections says in a statement that Efforts to obtain drugs needed for lethal injection are ongoing, with an execution date set for March 23.