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New bill would shield the source of lethal injection drugs in Idaho

A photo of an execution chamber with a table and podium.
Scott Ki
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho's execution chamber as seen in this undated file photo

State officials could hide where they get lethal injection drugs from under a new bill introduced Monday.

Rep. Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell) said courts and conservative legislatures around the U.S. have kept the death penalty in place for several decades.

But Chaney said anti-death penalty groups have recently focused on one tactic: "…and that is to leverage woke, cancel culture to shame providers of lethal injection drugs away from providing those drugs for executions for states."

"They've been successful enough around the country that the word that [pharmacies] are giving to our department of corrections is don't even call us if you cannot provide us with anonymity," Chaney added.

Since Europe banned the export of drugs used for lethal injections in 2011, supplies in the U.S. have dwindled.

Utah lawmakers reauthorized the firing squad in 2015 for executions due to the shortage of execution drugs. Other states have also recently included the electric chair and lethal gas as options if lethal injection isn't feasible.

Stateshave turned to compounding pharmacies to get those drugs, which mix custom cocktails of drugs order-by-order.

Court records allege current Idaho Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt took a chartered plane to Tacoma in 2012.

In a Walmart parking lot there, he bought execution drugs from a compounding pharmacy with a suitcase stuffed with more than $10,000 in cash to be used in the execution of Richard Leavitt, according to those court documents.

A year before, in 2011, a Salt Lake City pharmacist told The Utah Investigative Journalism Project he had sold pentobarbital sodium to Idaho to use in the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades.

Most recently, state officials have been trying to execute Gerald Pizzuto for months, though his case continues to be argued over in court.

Gov. Brad Little denied a recommendation from the Idaho Board of Pardons and Parole to commute Pizzuto's death sentence to life in prison despite his rapidly failing health.

But a district court judge ruled earlier this month that Little didn't have the authority to reject such a recommendation.

The governor's office said it will appeal that ruling.

Pizzuto has been on death row since 1986 after he killed two people in Idaho County.

Chaney's bill still needs a public hearing before it could go before the full House for a vote.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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