Thursday, November 17, 2011

Idaho's Twenty-Eighth

Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. the death warrant for Paul Ezra Rhoades will be read. He will have already been moved to Idaho's new execution chamber and at 8:10 a.m. the lethal injection is scheduled to begin. Within minutes, Paul Ezra Rhoades will be the twenty-eighth prisoner to be executed by the state of Idaho since 1864.

Paul Ezra Rhoades has exhausted all appeals, including asking for and being denied a stay of execution by the United States Supreme Court. Barring an unforeseen granting of clemency, Rhoades will be executed tomorrow morning.

To further understand Rhoades' case, his appeals, the execution process, and Idaho's history of executions, I highly recommend the following:
It is unfortunate that the state of Idaho will not be allowing the media witnesses to view each step of the execution. In fact, Rhoades will spend twenty-five minutes in the execution chamber without any witnesses present. It is not out of any morbid fascination that we should demand that the press be witness to such a gruesome event. It is so that we can ensure that the letter of the law is followed when the state carries out an execution. It is out of respect for and protection of the First Amendment that we should demand the press access to each step of the execution process. It is so we, as residents of the state of Idaho, can fully realize the actions we allow our elected leaders to take in our name. Tomorrow's execution of Rhoades is, after all, the taking of a life by the state of Idaho in the name of justice and protection of the people of this state.

I cannot state any clearer why this matters than the Idaho Statesman editorial board did today: "The state that kills in the name of its people should be completely and fully accountable to its people." Unfortunately, tomorrow's execution is not being treated with the sensitivity such an event demands. The leaders of this state, both in the governor's office and the Department of Corrections, are behaving as if the executing of a prisoner is just business as usual. When I stated that I was grateful to live in a state that isn't as blasé about executions as Texas, I never imagined that when the time came to execute a death row inmate, the governor would feel no obligation to be in the state and we would deny the media access to the execution in its entirety.

Yes, you read that right, though Idaho Governor Butch Otter has received hundreds of letters addressed directly to him regarding the execution of Rhoades, Otter is in Hawaii and Lt. Governor Brad Little is currently at the helm. Neither have expressed any opposition to the death penalty and it is doubtful that the many out-of-state letters asking for clemency will outweigh the hundreds of comments the governor has received from Idahoans in support of tomorrow's execution. Idahoans fall largely on the side of vengeance (vengeance was something I discussed here) when it comes to the whether or not a convicted killer like Rhoades should be executed. The state that is resoundingly pro-life, the life of a man on death row is not to be shown mercy. Instead, Idahoans will sit quietly by, some surely cheering, as the state of Idaho takes a life in our name.

Tomorrow Idaho will continue, business as usual, and chances are there won't be seventeen years between this execution and our next. Will Idaho's twenty-eighth teach us anything?

Update: The state of Idaho executed Paul Ezra Rhoades Friday, November 18th at 9:15 a.m. (MST).

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