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Gonzaga professor shares doubts over possible decision to bring firing squads back to Idaho death row

Idaho lawmakers are considering the move since the state has been unable to get the drugs needed for lethal injections.

MOSCOW, Idaho — Last December, the state of Idaho had no choice but to call off the execution of Gerald Pizzuto, who was sentenced to death for the 1985 murders of a woman and her nephew during a robbery at a remote cabin near McCall.

The problem was that the department of corrections was unable to get a hold of the lethal injection drugs they needed. It's a problem that persists today.

"The companies that do make this drug are European countries and they're no longer willing to sell it to the United States as they have been for nearly 10 years now," Visiting Assistant Professor at Gonzaga Juandalynn Taylor said.

Taylor has worked on over 177 death penalty cases across the country. She says another problem states face with lethal injections is that many doctors aren't willing to participate.

"Some of the doctors are saying hey it's already a problem because our Hippocratic oath says we can't do any harm," Taylor said. "This is why the firing squads become that other backup method, because it doesn't require a medical professional to administer that."

Idaho banned firing squads more than a decade ago, but now some lawmakers want to bring them back as an alternative method for execution when lethal injection drugs are not available.

"A firing squad is made up of individuals from the department of corrections who would have volunteered to participate in that death process," Taylor said.

Utah was the last state to execute a person using a firing squad, which is also an option in Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

But, Taylor believes it poses a constitutional problem.

"Under the eighth amendment, we have these rules about this unnecessary, unwanted, this freakish pain and so if we can not establish this dying with dignity that is also part of the eighth amendment and meet these benchmarks around pain, then we have not only failed the individual on the other side of this firing squad, we've also failed ourselves because we agreed on this constitution and we can't start making discounts for the rights of people just for our own personal feelings," Taylor said.

Eight people are currently on death row in Idaho and, with the recent murder of four university of Idaho students, the topic is now top of mind for many people in the state, including lawmakers.

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