As the process leading to Friday's scheduled execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades sped up in recent weeks, Boise State scrambled to put together a discussion to quell misconceptions behind capital punishment.
On Monday night, Dr. Greg Hampikian of Amanda Knox and Idaho Innocence Project fame and Teresa Hampton, co-counsel on the Rhoades case and supervising attorney of the capital habeas unit at the Federal Defenders of Idaho, led a discussion with more than 100 audience members.
"It’s a really nebulous system," said Hampikian of the capital-punishment process. "My concern is, here in Idaho, it hasn’t been fired up in a while. When you do something so rarely, and you’re going to do it for the first time in more than a decade, what do you practice on?"
Hampton is seeking a stay based on the three-drug method of injection adopted by Idaho. This will be the first time the state has used the lethal injection protocol, and the concern of the legal team is that the state isn't prepared. They began preparing for the execution a month ago, and have yet to practice IV lines, said Hampton.
"The offender would jerk toward his arm where the IV was, start to say something, not be able to," said Hampton of a botched Arizona execution that used the three-drug method. However, "That would eventually stop when the paralytic took over," she said.
Hampton and counsel advocate for a one-drug procedure. The anesthetic administered in either protocol calls for 5 grams—enough to kill the offender without the risk of the paralytic and cardiac arrest-inducing drugs.
Hampikian's work with the Idaho Innocent Project has exonerated those on death row. He says that the United States' record on the percentage who sit on death row, yet are innocent, isn't great. Since 1977, 137 have been freed from death row, and 1,273 have been killed.
"That’s a big figure to me. That’s a big percentage. … If it were a peanut butter factory, if it were an airline, if it were an automobile manufacturer that had that kind of error rate, I think we would shut them down overnight."
Late Monday, a Federal judge refused to grant an emergency stay of execution for Rhoades. Hampton said the next step was another last-minute appeal in the race leading up to Friday morning.