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Posts tagged: execution

Protesters: ‘One more pain of so many’

About 45 people gathered in a circle in the freezing darkness outside Idaho's state prison complex this morning to protest capital punishment, as the clock ticks toward Idaho's first execution in 17 years. “This is a heartbreaking morning,” said Mia Crosthwaite of Idahoans Against the Death Penalty. “It is good to be with other people.” The group prayed for condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades and his family, and for his victims and their families, prosecutors, police and more. Some held signs, with slogans including, “Life in prison=Justice, Killing=Vengeance,” “Cruel and unusual punishment” and “What would Jesus do?” Nearby, another group of seven people sat in a row in a silent vigil, facing the prison and the slowly lightening sky. At the circle, Crosthwaite told the group, “Today's execution is one more pain of so many.”

Across the road, the space set aside for pro-death penalty protesters was mostly empty. Tasha Wiegand, a former eastern Idaho resident, stood at one edge of it, but said she and her son weren't taking a position for or against the death penalty; they were just there to support the family and friends of the victims, whom they knew. “I think this is where we need to be,” Wiegand said.

Crosthaite said she and her group came out to the prison gate at 6 a.m. today to protest the execution. “We'll stay until it's over,” she said. “It is cold. I was expecting a handful, so I'm glad there's so many people standing up together, and I think we're going to see more people come as the morning progresses.”

Reinke: ‘Law requires and justice demands that Rhoades be held accountable’

Addressing the media in the chill of the press tent this morning, state Corrections Director Brent Reinke said, “The law requires and justice demands that Mr. Rhoades be held accountable. … Today we carry out the execution order.”

All Idaho state prisons, statewide, are on lockdown and high alert, Reinke said. In the execution chamber, there will be two phones: One red, connected to the governor's office, and one black, connected to the satellite office for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who is on site at the Idaho Maximum Security Prison. Reinke said his role includes picking up that black phone at 8:07 a.m. to inquire of the Attorney General if there are any last-minute legal impediments to the execution. If not, the order will be given to proceed, and the Attorney General will join the witnesses in the chamber.

Witnesses will include the sheriffs of both counties where Rhoades was convicted and sentenced to death, Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde and Bingham County Sheriff Dave Johnson; prosecutors from both counties; representatives of the victims' families; Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg, who will pronounce death; Idaho Maximum Security Institution Warden Randy Blades, who will read the death warrant; Reinke; relatives of the condemned; and four media witnesses, who just were chosen by random drawing: Nate Green of the Idaho Press-Tribune, Mac King from ABC Channel 6, Ruth Brown from the Post Register in Idaho Falls, and Rebecca Boone of the AP. Said Reinke, “We are all witnesses to justice as prescribed by law.”

Reinke: Rhoades ‘understands what is about to happen’

Idaho Corrections Director Brent Reinke, asked about the demeanor this morning of condemned prisoner Paul Ezra Rhoades, said, “He's very serious. He understands what is about to happen. His spiritual adviser and his attorney have been with him throughout the night.”

Fog lifts, preparations under way…

Idaho state Corrections Director Brent Reinke will brief reporters momentarily on the preparations for this morning's execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades. The fog has lifted over the prison complex, and it's clear, cold, and 32 degrees. Click below for an AP report on the final preparations.

Fog shrouds prison complex as execution approaches

It's foggy and spooky out at Idaho's state prison complex this morning, where the first execution since 1994 is scheduled for 8 a.m. Space has been set aside for protesters both for and against the death penalty at the main entry gate to the prison complex on Pleasant Valley Road; inside the prison complex, the media is gathering at a “media center” that consists of a tent out in a dirt parking lot; the lights of the medium- and maximum-security prisons glow faintly in the fog.

Unlike the last person executed in Idaho, who dropped all appeals and asked to be put to death, condemned murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades has pursued every appeal possible, including another last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court last night. None have worked. He admits his crimes, which terrorized an eastern Idaho community for three weeks in 1987 and left three people to die terrible deaths. His appeals have focused mostly on technicalities and on his abusive childhood and drug addiction; he says he's changed in his quarter-century in prison. Click below for a report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone on Rhoades' story.

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Rhoades’ last-minute bid for stay of execution

Here's a news item from the Associated Press in Washington, D.C.: WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to intervene in the case of an Idaho inmate who is scheduled to be executed Friday for killing two women nearly a quarter-century ago. Paul Ezra Rhoades' lethal injection would be the first execution in Idaho in 17 years. Rhoades' lawyers asked the high court for time to challenge the state's lethal injection policy. They argue that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment that is barred by the Constitution. Lower courts have rejected their arguments, and late Thursday, the Supreme Court denied two requests for a stay. Rhoades was sentenced to death for killing newly married, 21-year-old Stacy Dawn Baldwin and 34-year-old Susan Michelbacher, a special education teacher. He received a term of life in prison for killing 20-year-old Nolan Haddon.

Rhoades presses last-minute appeals

Late yesterday, condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades filed a petition for a rehearing en banc by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of his bid for a stay of execution; today, the appellate court rejected that motion. He also filed an additional motion for a stay of execution, this time arguing that another pending federal court case could provide grounds for Rhoades to seek a stay based on ineffective assistance of counsel, because his lawyers didn't have him tested for brain damage. Today, the 9th Circuit denied that motion as well; you can read that decision here. Now, Rhoades has filed a petition and application for a stay with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Idaho restricts witness access to execution

The Idaho Department of Correction says it will not allow media witnesses to view the entire execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, and two separate groups are protesting the policy, the Associated Press reports. Rhoades is scheduled to die by lethal injection Friday, making him the first person to be executed under Idaho's new lethal injection guidelines.

Prison officials say to maintain Rhoades' dignity, they won't allow witnesses to view him being restrained or having the IVs inserted. They also said changing the procedure now could be disruptive. But a group of Idaho news organizations say that policy conflicts with a 2002 federal court ruling that found the public, through the media, must be allowed to view executions in their entirety. The news organizations have asked the state to reconsider. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

9th Circuit rejects Rhoades’ appeal for stay of execution

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tonight rejected Paul Ezra Rhoades' last-minute bid for a stay of execution on grounds that Idaho's lethal injection method, if improperly administered, could cause him severe pain; a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court issued its decision the same day the state filed its response to Rhoades' 9th Circuit appeal, clearing the way for his scheduled execution on Friday.

“Death penalty cases are wrenchingly difficult to assess because of the superordinately high stakes for the prisoner whose execution is scheduled and for society which plans to take the prisoner’s life as a sanction for the murder of one or more of its citizens,” the appeals court wrote. “But the key rules that govern this appeal have already been set. The Supreme Court has approved of the death penalty as a continuing option for states that choose to invoke this supreme punishment. … Many, but not all, states have chosen to maintain the death penalty, including Idaho.”

The panel found that Rhoades didn't prove that the medical team that would be administering his lethal injection was unqualified or likely to botch it; instead, they wrote, each member of the team has at least 15 years professional experience, and the team leader is an experienced registered nurse. You can read the 9th Circuit decision here.

As execution approaches, Otter’s in Maui, LIttle’s in charge

As last-minute pleas for clemency continued to pour into Idaho's state Capitol this week in advance of the state's first execution since 1994, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wasn't there – he was at a posh resort in Maui to speak about presidential politics, leaving Lt. Gov. Brad Little in charge.
Little has been Idaho's acting governor from Sunday, when Otter left for Hawaii, until Thursday, when Otter is planning to return to Boise, leaving the California Independent Voter Project's “Business and Leader Exchange” a day early to make it back for the Friday execution. During that time, condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades had two bids for a stay of execution rejected by the U.S. District Court in Boise and filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; state attorneys filed their response to that appeal today.

Where was Otter, who could commute the sentence? As the guest of the California group, he and First Lady Lori Otter flew to Hawaii for the group's conference at the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, a beachfront spread with three swimming pools, a 140-foot water slide and an array of luxury amenities.

Little, who says he's “really uncomfortable with capital punishment, just because of the very nature of it,” but has come to support it after much “soul searching,” says as acting governor, he wouldn't reverse Otter's stand, which has been to deny clemency for Rhoades. Little said he hasn't even read the letters and emails that continued to come in to the Capitol regarding the execution this week, leaving them instead for Otter on his return. “I guess I could go ask for 'em if I wanted to, but I have chosen not to do that,” Little said. He said he agrees with Otter's stance in this case. “I don't think anybody's arguing that Paul Ezra Rhoades is anywhere close to innocent.”  You can read my full story here at

Witness to Idaho’s last execution recalls quiet, ‘antiseptic’ procedure

Bob Fick, former longtime Associated Press correspondent in Boise, witnessed Idaho's last execution in 1994, and shares his experience in an interview today with Boise State Public Radio's Samantha Wright; you can listen here. Fick said his lasting impression came from how quiet and antiseptic the proceeding was, compared to the crimes that Keith Eugene Wells had committed, beating two people to death with a baseball bat. “That's the thing I remember the most, is how antiseptic it was,” he told Wright. “If somebody … if their purpose was revenge, to get some measure, some pound of flesh as payback, I don't know that that method of execution would achieve that end.”

Rhoades files bid for last-minute reprieve from 9th Circuit

Attorneys for condemned Idaho inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades have filed an emergency appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking a stay of his execution while his legal challenge to Idaho's three-drug lethal injection method of execution proceeds in court. A U.S. District Court magistrate judge in Idaho rejected Rhoades' bid for a stay yesterday, concluding in part that a stay would not be in the public interest. Rhoades has exhausted all his appeals from the 1987 eastern Idaho murders for which he was convicted and sentenced to die; the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last one last month.

In their 33-page brief, Rhoades' attorneys wrote, “The strong public interest is in an orderly and deliberate decision of the important issues raised. If Idaho is to exact the ultimate penalty, it should only do so in a humane manner, without inflicting severe and unnecessary pain on the condemned inmate.” They argue that Idaho hasn't proven its team that will inject the lethal drugs is sufficiently trained to do so properly, and that improper administration could result in severe pain.

In other developments in the case, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush yesterday rejected Rhoades' bid for a stay of execution, he also rejected another last-minute motion for a stay filed by Rhoades' attorneys on Sunday. Also, all sides in the litigation reached agreement today on one count in Rhoades' lawsuit: That he be permitted to have his attorney present at the execution. With that agreement, Rhoades dropped that count from the suit.

Meanwhile, KTVB-TV reports here that Rhoades is spending what likely are his final days in daily visits with his mother, watching TV, reading and doing some art work. He's also spending time with his spiritual advisor and his attorney. Idaho Corrections Director Brent Reinke told KTVB, “There's an anxiousness on Death Row,” and the warden at Idaho's maximum security prison has agreed to allow Death Row inmates to sign a card for Rhoades.

Rhoades attorneys plan 9th Circuit appeal today

Attorneys for condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades have issued a statement saying they plan to file an appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today seeking a stay of execution; Rhoades' execution is scheduled for Friday. “We remain dedicated to challenging Idaho's lethal injection protocol, as we maintain it could subject Mr. Rhoades to substantial risk of severe pain,” the attorneys wrote. You can read their full statement here.

They also said they're continuing to urge Gov. Butch Otter to grant Rhoades a reprieve until a clemency hearing can be held by the Idaho Board of Pardons & Parole; that board earlier rejected Rhoades' bid for a clemency hearing.

Judge: Staying Rhoades execution wouldn’t serve the public interest

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush, in his decision on Paul Ezra Rhoades' emergency motion for a stay of his Friday execution, wrote that Rhoades proved in court that “if Rhoades is not rendered sufficiently unconscious from the first drug used in the three-drug lethal injection protocol, then he will certainly suffer excruciating suffocation and pain from the remaining two drugs. The Court also finds, as agreed by the parties, that if properly anesthetized, there will be no risk of pain for Rhoades.”

But the judge said the Idaho Department of Correction “has provided appropriate safeguards to protect against a substantial risk that Rhoades will not be adequately anesthetized at the beginning of the execution process,” and “the safeguards of the Idaho protocol are substantially similar to those contained in execution protocols approved by the United States Supreme Court and by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in similar cases.”

The judge wrote, “The Court finds that the public interest favors denial of the request for a stay of the execution. Rhoades has previously appealed the convictions and the sentences that brought him to this fast-approaching execution date, and has sought relief from the federal courts under federal habeas claims. Those appeals and collateral proceedings have run their course, and those issues are not before this Court. It has been over 23 years since Rhoades was first sentenced to death. The State of Idaho allows imposition of the death penalty for crimes such as committed by Rhoades. … The State of Idaho has an interest in seeing that its laws are enforced, and further delay will not meet that interest.” He added, “The public has an interest, independent of the difficult debate over the death penalty as a form of punishment at all, to have such proceedings reach a conclusion.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Rhoades execution is on…

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush has issued his 43-page decision in Paul Ezra Rhoades' last-minute bid for a stay of his execution - scheduled for Friday - while he challenges Idaho's lethal injection protocol, and the judge has denied a stay. That means Idaho's first execution since 1994 is on for this Friday at 8 a.m. “Rhoades has not demonstrated entitlement to injunctive relief,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction or Stay of Execution (Docket No. 17) is DENIED.”

Judge’s ruling due today on whether or not to stay Rhoades execution

Today is the day that a federal judge will decide whether to stay the execution of triple murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades, which is scheduled for Friday, while he challenges Idaho's lethal injection execution method as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. Yesterday, Rhoades' attorneys filed another emergency motion for stay of execution, demanding background checks into the qualifications of the execution team members to insert IV's and assess depth of unconsciousness.

The state prison system argued earlier that it had reviewed those qualifications, but then destroyed the documents; the team members' identities are being kept confidential.

Meanwhile, Idaho Statesman reporter Patrick Orr had this look over the weekend at how legal complexities stall executions, and why Idaho has seen fewer executions than other 9th Circuit states since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979; Idaho's actually had more Death Row inmates freed - three - than executed - one. Also, Associated Press reporter Rebecca Boone reports here on preparations for the execution, which have taken months; click below to read her look at Rhoades' three victims.

Otter standing by decision not to spare killer’s life

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Catholic who once studied for the priesthood, is the only one who could spare the life of condemned Idaho inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades, a multiple murderer scheduled for execution next Friday. Otter, a supporter of the death penalty, has stuck by his position, even in the face of pleas for mercy from the pope, from the Swiss ambassador, and from the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Idaho.

“It's tough, it's tough,” Otter said, when asked about balancing his faith and his position. He's been reluctant to discuss the matter as Idaho approaches its first execution since 1994, when condemned murderer Keith Eugene Wells dropped his appeals and requested to be put to death. This case is different: Rhoades has tried every appeal, exhausted every remedy, and still is attempting in federal court to challenge Idaho's lethal-injection execution method as unconstitutionally cruel; a federal judge will decide Monday if that challenge should delay the scheduled execution. You can read my full story here at

Killer’s bid for last-minute reprieve stretches into evening, judge to rule Monday

A hearing that started at 1 this afternoon stretched into the evening tonight, as condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades pressed for a last-minute reprieve from his execution, scheduled for next Friday. The Associated Press reports that after the arguments, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush said he'll try to decide by Monday whether to postpone the execution. The judge said Thursday night he was concerned that the Idaho Department of Correction seemed to be “playing catch-up” when it came to planning for Rhoades' execution. Rhoades, who was convicted of murdering three people in 1987 and sentenced to die for two of the murders, has sued over Idaho's lethal injection protocol. He contends the state's policy doesn't include enough safeguards to ensure that he is adequately anesthetized and doesn't experience excruciating pain during the execution. Idaho attorneys counter that their protocol is similar to methods that have been upheld by the courts in other states. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Otter: ‘Law requires and justice demands that Mr. Rhoades be held accountable’

Idaho's Commission on Pardons and Parole, which has been studying the case of Death Row inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades for the past two weeks, met Friday morning in executive session, as required by law, to deliberate on a petition from Rhoades and his attorneys for commutation of his death sentence. “Their decision was to deny setting a commutation hearing,” said Olivia Craven, executive director of the commission. The commission's decision was delivered to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today.

If the commission had agreed to hold a hearing, the governor would have 30 days to decide whether to commute the sentence. But because that didn't happen, the clock is still ticking, and Rhoades' scheduled Nov. 18 execution date is still on. It would be only Idaho's third execution since the 1950s, and the first since 1994. Rhoades was sentenced to death for the 1987 murders of Susan Michelbacher and Stacy Baldwin in eastern Idaho; he also was convicted of a third murder there; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Gov. Otter is the only one who can commute the death sentence. It's happened once before; in 1996, then-Gov. Phil Batt agreed with the recommendation of the commission and commuted the sentence of Donald Paradis from death to life without parole amid questions about his original conviction; Paradis later was released in 2001, after pleading guilty to being an accessory to murder.

Otter, a supporter of the death penalty, issued this statement today: “Paul Ezra Rhoades has taken full and unfettered advantage of his right to due process of law for more than two decades. That process is running its course. The law requires and justice demands that Mr. Rhoades be held accountable for his actions as a judge and jury have directed. I appreciate the Commission of Pardons and Parole carrying out its statutory duty respectfully and professionally.”

Idaho prepares for execution

Idaho's new death chamber is ready for the scheduled execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, convincted of a string of murders and sexual assaults that terrorized eastern Idaho in the late 1980s. The state prisons have constructed a new death chamber, and moved Rhoades to a small holding cell just across the hall. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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