By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill Friday to bring back the firing squad as an execution method.
The bill passed in a 50-15 vote and now heads to the Senate.
Rep. David Cannon, R-Blackfoot, Rep. Chenele Dixon, R-Kimberly, Rep. Greg Lanting, R-Twin Falls, Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint, and Rep. Josh Wheeler, R-Ammon were the only Republicans to side with Democrats in no votes.
Lethal injection is currently the only legal method of execution in Idaho. The chemicals used in the method are challenging to obtain.
Should it pass, the bill allows the use of the firing squad when lethal injection is not available. It does not outline how many guns or what type of guns would be used in an execution. That responsibility would be left to the Idaho Department of Correction director, who is hired by the Board of Correction. Board of Correction members are appointed by the governor.
Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, brought the bill after the Idaho Department of Correction had to cancel the previously 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 last year.
Pizzuto, 66, is on Idaho’s 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.
“We have had to delay the justice that a family deserves with regard to … Pizzuto,” said Rep. Kenny Wroten, R-Nampa. “They did not have the lethal injection mixture to accomplish this.”
The clock is ticking for Pizzuto, after the Idaho Attorney General’s Office requested a new death warrant for Pizzuto on Feb. 24. An Idaho judge scheduled his execution for March 23. IDOC reported in a news release on Feb. 24 that it did not yet have the necessary chemicals to execute Pizzuto.
Legislators noted that should the bill pass, IDOC would need to construct a facility to carry out an execution by firing squad.
Cannon said he did not believe it was fiscally conservative to support the bill, as IDOC would be forced to construct a facility and maintain a facility that it could potentially never use.
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, called the firing squad “grotesque” and “gruesome.”
“This does not feel like the right answer for America in the 21st century,” Rubel said.