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Bill allowing prisoner execution by firing squad clears Idaho Legislature, heads to governor

Idaho Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, left, co-sponsored a bill that passed Monday to reinstate a firing squad as the state’s backup method of execution. Sen. Todd M. Lakey, R-Nampa, right, chair of the Senate’s Judiciary & Rules Committee, last week cast the tie-breaking vote to ensure that the bill received a full Senate vote rather than die in committee. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Idaho is poised to become the fifth U.S. state to approve prisoner executions by firing squad after the proposed law cleared the Legislature on Monday on its way to the governor’s desk.
House Bill 186, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, and Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, passed the Senate with a 24-11 vote. The bill would establish a firing squad as the state’s backup method of execution to lethal injection. Backers argued that death sentences are effectively unenforceable in Idaho because prison officials have been unable to secure the drugs needed to carry out the state’s only current method.
“This is not talking about the merits of whether we should have the death penalty or not,” Ricks said during Senate debate Monday. “This is about justice. I do think this a humane way to do it.”
Oklahoma, Utah, Mississippi and South Carolina already have firing squads as an alternative method of execution on the books. The law has been challenged in court in South Carolina and is making its way through the legal process. Utah was the last U.S. state to carry out a firing squad execution, in 2010.
The Idaho bill overwhelmingly passed the Idaho House earlier this month, 50-15.
Skaug, an attorney and former Ada County deputy prosecutor, testified before a Senate panel last week that lawmakers should vote on the intent behind the bill — and not based on whether they support or oppose the death penalty. Capital punishment is already Idaho law, he said.
“There needs to be retribution as part of our sentencing,” Skaug testified. “That’s what keeps me or some other people from taking vengeance on our own if we suffer in the family a murder, because we know the system will bring us justice. This is the justice system that we have set up and that is death penalty.”
Attorney General Raúl Labrador helped draft the bill, an office spokesperson previously told the Idaho Statesman. Labrador, a former Republican U.S. congressman for Idaho, worked at Skaug’s private law firm for nearly three years before voters elected him in November.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho immediately rebuked the vote, labeling both the bill and the Senate’s passage as “appalling.” The ACLU opposes the death penalty outright.
“A firing squad is particularly gruesome. As we heard during testimony, the violence of such executions leave lasting scars on all involved,” Leo Morales, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “Idaho has never used firing squad as a method of execution, presumably because it is inhumane. This archaic piece of legislation must not become law in Idaho.”
The Idaho Department of Correction, which manages the state’s death row and oversees executions, estimated the cost of modifying an area of the Idaho Maximum Security Institute outside Kuna for firing squad executions at $750,000. The bill was passed with an emergency clause and would take effect on July 1 if signed by Gov. Brad Little.
Little, a Republican, told the Statesman last month that he supports the death penalty, but that the state should continue the practice in a way that considers the potential impact on state prison officials.
“I think it’s only in lieu of our current system not working, and I haven’t given up on our current system,” Little said. “I’m a proponent for capital punishment, but we need to do it in the most dignified and humane manner that creates the least amount of stress” for corrections officers.
The Statesman has requested comment from Little and Labrador’s offices.
The post Bill allowing prisoner execution by firing squad clears Idaho Legislature, heads to governor appeared first on East Idaho News.

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