Idaho legislators have approved a bill permitting prisoner executions by firing squad, marking the latest development in states considering older capital punishment methods. The bill received a veto-proof majority and is now awaiting Governor Brad Little's signature, who has previously supported the death penalty.
Death Penalty Dilemma: Scarcity of Lethal Injection Drugs
The state's inability to obtain lethal injection drugs, the only legal method of capital punishment in Idaho, has rendered death sentences ineffective. The firing squad bill, introduced by state Rep. Bruce Skaug, aims to provide an alternative method for carrying out death sentences.
Fifth State to Adopt Firing Squad Executions
If passed, Idaho would become the fifth U.S. state to authorize firing squad executions. The state adopted this option in 1982 but removed it in 2009 following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of lethal injections.
Arguments for Firing Squad Execution in Idaho
Skaug argued that the state could not execute convicted murderer Gerald Pizzuto Jr. last year due to the expiration of his death warrant and a lack of lethal injection drugs. He added that the state needs an alternative method to carry out death sentences as the drugs might not be available anytime soon.
Critics Claim Firing Squad Sends "Brutal Message"
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, believes Idaho's actions represent a step backward and send a "brutal message." He argues that a firing squad constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and that Idaho could face multiple legal challenges.
Current U.S. States with Firing Squad Execution Laws
Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, and South Carolina allow firing squads if other execution methods are unavailable. However, South Carolina's firing squad law is on hold pending the resolution of a lawsuit challenging the plan. Utah was the last state to carry out a firing squad execution in 2010.