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Joe Hernandez

Idaho is the latest state to permit execution by firing squad

Idaho Gov. Brad Little delivers his 2023 State of the State address at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise in January. A new law allows executions by firing squad if no lethal injection drugs are available. (Kyle Green/AP)

Idaho may soon use firing squads to execute death-row inmates if no lethal injection drugs are available, under a new law signed last week.

On Friday, Republican Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 186, which permits state prison officials to carry out executions using a method that hasn't been employed in the U.S. in more than a decade.

"For the people on death row, a jury convicted them of their crimes, and they were lawfully sentenced to death," Little said in a letter after signing the bill.

"It is the responsibility of the State of Idaho to follow the law and ensure that lawful criminal sentences are carried out," he added.

The ACLU of Idaho called Little's signing of the law "extremely disappointing" and said that though it opposed all forms of capital punishment, firing squad are "especially gruesome."

The law takes effect on July 1.

In recent years, more and more states have hit snags obtaining the chemicals necessary for lethal injection executions, particularly because some pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling the drugs for that purpose.

Idaho will become the fifth state to currently allow firing squads for executions, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and South Carolina also permit the method as an alternative to lethal injection.

The last person to be executed by a firing squad was convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner, according to the group, who was shot to death by a firing squad in a Utah prison in 2010.

South Carolina was preparing to carry out its first-ever execution by firing squad last year when a judge issued a temporary stay blocking the killing.

Little, who has said he supports the death penalty, added that he hadn't given up on Idaho's ability to acquire the drugs necessary to perform lethal injections.

But the Idaho Capital Sun reported that the state hasn't been able to carry out the scheduled execution of inmate Gerald Pizzuto Jr. because it was unable to obtain the drug pentobarbital.

The state currently has eight inmates on death row, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.

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