Gem State Roundup

Bill introduced to bring back firing squad as execution method in Idaho

By: - February 22, 2023 1:20 pm
Idaho Capitol rotunda

Idaho State Capitol building on Jan. 11, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for the Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill Wednesday to bring back the firing squad as a legal form of execution in Idaho.

Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, will sponsor the bill. Skaug is the chairman of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee, where the bill will get a public hearing.

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The bill comes after the Idaho Department of Correction had to cancel the scheduled execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr. in November. IDOC stated it could not obtain the chemicals necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection.

Lethal injection is currently the only legal form of execution in Idaho.

Skaug’s bill adds the firing squad as a form of execution. It states that no later than five days after a death warrant is issued, the IDOC director must determine whether execution by lethal injection is an available method. If the method is not available, IDOC shall use the firing squad.

The bill does not define how many or what type of firearms shall be used in an execution. It dictates the IDOC director to determine the procedures used in the execution.

Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa
Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa (Courtesy of the Idaho Legislature)

Skaug said he thought the firing squad was actually a more humane form of execution, as sometimes the lethal injection process can be botched. Other states, including Utah, have brought back the firing squad due to the inability to obtain lethal injection chemicals.

Pizzuto, 66, remains on death row after being convicted in the 1985 deaths of Berta Herndon and her nephew Delbert Herndon outside of McCall. His two co-defendants, William Odom and James Rice, were given lesser sentences for their roles in the crime.

The Legislature passed a bill last year that would grant anonymity to any company or pharmacy that provided the chemicals used in lethal injection. The legislation was an effort by the state to make it easier to obtain the chemicals.

The state of Idaho did legalize the use of the firing squad in 1982, but the Legislature removed it as an option in 2009. There was only one execution during that time; Keith Eugene Wells was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Eight people, including Pizzuto, await execution on Idaho’s death row.


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