Idaho inmate challenges execution

Started by ScoopD (aka: Pam), September 26, 2011, 02:24:56 AM

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ScoopD (aka: Pam)

Idaho death row inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state's method of execution.

Rhoades, who was convicted of three murders in Idaho Falls and Blackfoot in 1988, says lethal injections are frequently botched. He also argues Idaho's protocol for administering lethal injections doesn't require enough training or experience for the execution team, and that other problems with the system would render his execution unconstitutional.

Rhoades is one of a handful of Idaho death-row inmates whose cases may be nearing an end. The state Department of Correction, in anticipation of at least one execution occurring within the next year, has been taking several steps to prepare -- including updating its execution protocol and building a new execution chamber. The previous chamber, which has been only used once in the past five decades, was contained inside a trailer.

Department spokesman Jeff Ray said the execution protocol is still being drafted, but it's designed to fully comply with all U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Rhoades was given two death sentences for raping and murdering 34-year-old Idaho Falls teacher Susan Michelbacher, whose bullet-ridden body was found in March 1987. He also was given two death sentences for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of 24-year-old Stacy Dawn Baldwin, a Blackfoot convenience store clerk. She was shot to death in February 1987.

Rhoades was also sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to the March 1987 shooting death of 21-year-old Nolan Haddon, a Blackfoot man who worked at an Idaho Falls convenience store.

Over the past several years, Rhoades has appealed several aspects of his case. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide next month whether it will consider his remaining challenge -- a claim that a lower court should have had an evidentiary hearing when deciding whether his attorneys effectively represented him during sentencing.

Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson says he expects the high court to decline to hear Rhoades' case. If Anderson is right, the process of setting an execution date may begin: The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals can lift the stay of execution it placed on Rhoades' case, freeing the state attorney general to ask a Bonneville County judge to issue a death warrant, and that request clearing the way for a judge to set an execution date within 30 days of issuing the order.

But Rhoades' challenge to Idaho's lethal injection method -- contained in more than 200 pages of documents filed late this week -- means a judge in Boise's U.S. District Court can put everything on hold to allow time for the court to consider the method of execution.

Anderson says it's anyone's guess what happens then.

"This is the first time since 1957 we've had an execution that wasn't a volunteer. From my perspective, we're in uncharted ground," he said.

But even if Idaho's methodology is initially found unconstitutional, it will be modified to meet court standards, Anderson said.

"The bottom line is that Idaho is not going to allow the prevention of an execution based on a defect in the protocol," he said. "We'll fix the protocol if there's any deficiency found."

Rhoades' attorney, Oliver Loewy with the Federal Defenders of Idaho, wasn't immediately available to comment on the case.

Because Idaho Department of Correction officials say the protocol is still being drafted and can't be released, it's not clear how closely the version included in Rhoades' lawsuit matches the one being adjusted by the department.

The draft protocol mentioned in the lawsuit was obtained through a public records request from March 2011. It calls for the use of three chemicals: sodium thiopental (an anesthetic), pancuronium bromide (a drug to paralyze muscles) and potassium chloride (a drug to stop the heart).

There has been a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, but the draft addresses that possibility by allowing the state to substitute pentobarbital if the first drug can't be found, according to the lawsuit.

source: AP chron.com
<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.

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