Execution chemical secrecy bill brought back for vote, moves to Senate

Legislators conflicted about whether last week’s 4-4 tie vote on House Bill 658 killed the bill for this legislative session

By: - March 14, 2022 3:49 pm
Idaho Capital Building in Boise

The Idaho State Capitol building can be seen near the old Ada County Courthouse in Boise on March 20, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee brought back a bill on executions by lethal injection Monday, moving it forward in a 5-4 vote, after it stayed in committee last week due to a tie.

Last week, House Bill 658 stayed in committee due to a 4-4 vote. Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, was absent during that meeting. On Monday, Lodge voted in favor of moving the bill forward.

The bill would allow the state to grant anonymity to any manufacturer or supplier, such as a compounding pharmacy, that supplies the state with chemicals used in a lethal injection.

Lethal injection is the only legal form of execution in Idaho for people sentenced to death.

The no votes in the committee came from Sens. Grant Burgoyne, Christy Zito, Melissa Wintrow and Doug Ricks.

Committee chairman Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure found that a tie vote “decides nothing.” He said that means the bill couldn’t move forward, but wasn’t effectively dead. Monday’s 5-4 vote with Lodge was enough to move it forward.

According to Sec. 640 of Mason’s Manual, a legislative committee “has a right to reconsider any action taken by it as long as the proposal remains in the possession of the committee.” A reconsideration can be moved at any time while the proposal still remains before the committee and can be moved by any member, even if the member was absent when the vote was taken. Idaho Attorney General spokesman Scott Graf confirmed Lakey consulted with the office on the issue before it was added to the agenda.

Lakey also mentioned the cases of Gerald Pizzuto Jr., who narrowly avoided execution last summer, and the case of Thomas Creech, a man on Idaho’s death row. Creech and Pizzuto have ongoing appeals and don’t have active death warrants, but could face execution in the future.

“This is an issue that if we’re going to address it, we need to address it now,” said Lakey, who supported the bill.

Wintrow and Zito on Monday questioned whether procedurally the bill could be brought back for a second vote.

Zito argued she has had bills die in the past due to a tie vote, and she didn’t get a second chance. So theoretically, she said, this allows committee members to keep bringing back bills.

“I don’t want to set a precedent that we may regret later,” Zito said.

Wintrow said other sections of Mason’s Manual made it unclear whether the bill could be brought back for a second vote.

Sen. Kelly Anthon disagreed, saying it was very clear that “a tie vote decides nothing,” and the vote was necessary to determine whether or not Idaho would have the death penalty.

The bill narrowly passed the House in a 38-30 vote. It must now go before the full Senate for a vote.

Opponents of the bill also take issue with the supplier’s name not being admissible in court.

The Idaho Department of Correction previously said that it is unable to obtain the chemicals without being able to guarantee the supplier’s name won’t become public.

The two most recent executions by lethal injection in Idaho were those of Paul Ezra Rhoades in November 2011 and Richard Leavitt in June 2012. At the time of those executions, IDOC did not disclose where the state obtained the drugs or chemicals used. The state released information about how and where IDOC obtained the chemicals for the executions only after a series of court filings.

During a public hearing on the bill last week, all testimony was in opposition to the bill, with the exceptions of IDOC and the Attorney General’s Office.

Idaho Capital Sun reporter Kelcie Moseley-Morris contributed to this report.

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Ruth Brown
Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown is a writer and producer for Idaho Reports and Idaho Public Television.

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