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

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

The 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, HB 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.” 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.

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. Both 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.

Both 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.

<strong>Ruth Brown</strong> | Producer
Ruth Brown | Producer

Ruth Brown grew up in South Dakota and her first job out of college was covering the South Dakota Legislature. She’s since moved on to Idaho lawmakers. Brown spent 10 years working in print journalism, including newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press, where she’s covered everything from the correctional system to health care issues. She joined Idaho Reports in 2021 and looks forward to telling stories about how state policy can impact the lives of regular Idahoans.

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