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Firing squad executions to return in Idaho after lawmakers pass controversial bill

Firing squad executions to return in Idaho after lawmakers pass controversial bill

Firing squads are set to return as a possible method of execution in Idaho after state lawmakers passed a controversial bill bringing back the measure with a veto-proof majority.

The method had never been used when it was outlawed in 2009, but the state hasn’t been able to get hold of the drugs needed to conduct lethal injections.

Only four other states currently allow firing squads to be used if other methods aren’t possible – Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, where a judge has placed the use of the method on hold during the adjudication of a lawsuit challenging its use, according to the AP.

The bill in the Idaho legislature was sponsored by Republican Bruce Skaug from Nampa, west of Boise, in western Idaho. The law states that firing squads would be used in the event that lethal injections aren’t possible.

Mr Skaug noted that the execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr was cancelled last year after the Department of Correction in the state said they couldn’t get the chemicals needed.

Pizzuto has been on death row for more than 30 years after he was convicted for his role in the 1985 killings of two gold prospectors.

“The way it stands now, they may never get those materials for the lethal injections,” Mr Skaug told the House Ways and Means committee earlier this year. “This is a rule of law issue – our criminal system should work and our penalty should be exacted.”

Questions surrounding lethal injections are often brought up when a state is scheduling executions. Drugs which may not function as intended can and have led to botched executions, which is a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.

Pharmaceutical companies have refused to provide certain drugs to states if they have reason to believe they’ll be used for executions, which has led to some officials looking for new and at times problematic avenues for finding the chemicals needed, according to the AP.

Both the use of – and the public support for – the death penalty has decreased in the last 20 years, partly because of the number of botched executions, a report from the Death Penalty Information Center states.

Mr Skaug said firing squads were a better option than lethal injections despite the danger that they may cause serious pain before death.

“There can be about 10 seconds of extreme pain before death at times, but I find it to be, in my personal view, more humane than lethal injection,” he said earlier this year, according to the AP.

Lethal injection is the primary method used in the overwhelming majority of states that allow the death penalty, but a few still allow other methods, including electrocution.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1976, three executions by firing squad have been conducted in the US.

Eight people are currently on death row in Idaho. The bill permitting firing squad executions is now heading to the desk of Idaho’s Republican Governor Brad Little.