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What you need to know about the death penalty in Idaho after ‘doomsday’ stepfather Chad Daybell was sentenced to death

BOISE, Idaho– Chad Daybell was sentenced to death for the murders of his wife and his second wife’s two children this weekend, but when and if he will be executed remains an open question.

It is common for the appeals process in capital cases to take years, often reaching the U.S. Supreme Court before a prisoner is ultimately put to death. In Idaho, the imposition of a death sentence is followed by a mandatory post-conviction review, and defendants can appeal after entering a death sentence.

Meanwhile, the high-profile nature of Daybell’s case and the looming trial of Bryan Kohberger, who has pleaded not guilty in the murders of four University of Idaho college students, will draw renewed attention to Idaho’s death penalty, which is rarely used. grabbed headlines earlier this year when officials halted their first execution attempt in more than a decade.

Here’s what you need to know about the death penalty in Idaho.

Executions are unusual

Executions are relatively rare in Idaho, where only three executions have been carried out since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The first was in 1994, followed by two others in 2011 and 2012.

To put this in context, Texas put to death 580 inmates within the time frame, DPIC data shows — by far the most of any state. And Oklahoma, which has carried out the highest number of executions per capita, has executed 124.

Only a handful of the 27 states where the death penalty remains legal have carried out as few executions as Idaho: Kentucky, Montana and Pennsylvania have also each put to death three people since 1976. Kansas, Wyoming, and Oregon have carried out even fewer executions, with zero, one, and two executions, respectively.

Additionally, Idaho’s death row housed only eight inmates prior to Daybell’s conviction, according to the Idaho Department of Corrections. California — which, it should be noted, has a population more than 21 times that of Idaho — has 638 convicted prisoners, nearly 80 times the size of Idaho’s death row.

Officials recently halted an execution

Idaho officials tried several months ago to carry out the state’s first execution in 12 years. But they were forced to abort the procedure halfway through as they had difficulty setting up an intravenous line to deliver the lethal drugs for lethal injection.

That reflected the difficulties with executions in other states, including Alabama. Officials there also had to call off two executions in 2022 after authorities were unable to access the inmates’ veins before their death sentences expired.

Thomas Creech’s execution, scheduled in Idaho for Feb. 28, “could not proceed” after eight failed attempts to establish IV access, Josh Tewalt, director of the state Department of Correction, said at the time. The implementation team encountered two different problems, Tewalt said at a news conference: in some cases it was “an access problem,” and in other cases it was a “vein quality problem.”

Tewalt praised the medical team’s willingness to halt the execution, telling reporters that the state’s “first goal is to carry this out with dignity, professionalism and respect,” and he disputed suggestions that the execution was a “failure ” used to be. The department said in a statement that Creech’s arrest warrant would expire while the state considered next steps.

2 implementation methods, both with challenges

The decision to call off Creech’s execution also raised questions about when and how the state might try to put an inmate to death in the future.

Tewalt told reporters that a second attempt at lethal injection — Idaho’s main execution method — would require the state to look for new chemicals.

Although he expressed “a high level of confidence” that the state could obtain the drugs, a number of states have struggled to obtain them in recent years after pharmaceutical companies began banning the use of their products for that purpose. For example, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has repeatedly postponed executions because companies were unwilling to sell the necessary drugs.

Idaho recently legalized a second execution method aimed at circumventing these types of supply issues. Last year, Governor Brad Little signed a new law allowing the Department of Corrections to use the firing squad if the drugs are not available.

But in late February, the state lacked the facilities needed to carry out an execution by firing squad, Tewalt said. In a message to corrections staff, the warden said his department was working to adapt the execution chamber to the alternative method.

“These initial efforts were unsuccessful because contractors wanting to engage in this type of work expressed reluctance to work on a project related to foreclosures,” Tewalt said, “but efforts are ongoing.”

The director added that construction of the execution chamber would prevent the state from using it — even for lethal injections — until the work is completed.

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