What Idaho doesn't want its people to see (draft editorial on Rhoades execution)

Editor's note: Today, I'm doing something a little different on the blog. Given the timeliness of the issue, I am posting a draft of our Friday editorial on media access to the scheduled execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades.

On Friday morning, the state of Idaho is scheduled to take a life in the name of its people — but largely beyond the view of its people.

By restricting the news media’s access to a crucial step in the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, the state Correction Department will restrict what Idahoans know about this most sobering service of justice.

Idahoans will have to accept, on faith, the notion that the state’s first execution in 17 years was carried out without complications. That establishes a bad precedent for future executions — and there’s a good chance other Idaho inmates will be put to death in the next few years.

Four reporters will be allowed to watch the execution, but the Correction Department has decided that they will not be able to watch as the execution team straps Rhoades into a gurney and inserts IVs into his veins.

The insertion of the IVs is a crucial matter; in fact, it is central to Rhoades’ last-minute legal appeals. Rhoades’ attorneys have questioned whether the state’s execution team is adequately trained to administer an IV sedative that would render their client unconscious — and spare him from excruciating pain when drugs are injected to stop his breathing and stop his heart.

Judges have rejected this argument, contending that the state can execute Rhoades without violating Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush, who sided with the state Monday, also said the Corrections Department has appeared to “play catch-up,” deploying a compressed training schedule leading up to the execution date.

The public has a right to know whether the state has properly prepared its execution team. The media is there to bear witness, on the public’s behalf. Its watchdog role is inherently clear.

And that isn’t just a newspaper editorial board talking. In 2002, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the news media in a hauntingly similar case, pertaining to lethal injections of inmates on California’s Death Row. “The public has a First Amendment right to view the condemned as he enters the execution chamber, is forcibly restrained and fitted with the apparatus of death.”

This sounds like indisputable legal precedent. Correction Department Director Brent Reinke argues, unconvincingly, that this case doesn’t apply because it pertains to facts unique to California. If anything, the ruling directly challenges one of Reinke’s prime objections. Reinke says unrestricted media access would compromise the confidentiality of his execution team.

A fair concern. But again, let’s turn to the Circuit Court ruling: “(The) fear that execution team members will be publicly identified and retaliated against is an overreaction, supported only by questionable speculation.”

These aren’t our words. These are the words of a federal appeals court that has jurisdiction over Idaho. These are words that, sadly, have been ignored by the state.

The state that kills in the name of its people should be completely and fully accountable to its people. Today, Idaho’s Correction Department stands poised to hold itself to a far lower standard.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board.

Journalistic Voyeurism.....

My sense is that KR and the "Our View" crew at the Statesman wouldn't be happy unless Rhoades was transported via ox cart from the prison to the front step of the Statesman for public execution. Where is the line between the public's right to know and journalistic voyeurism? I wouldn't expect anyone at the Stateman to know the answer.


Your "ox cart" analogy just doesn't pull its own weight.

Reporters will be at the prison Friday. The one portion of the proceeding that will occur outside public view is — perhaps not coincidentally — the one most contested step in the process.

Allowing full access to this proceeding is perfectly reasonable and feasible, and most important, it's good policy.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

Kevin, The most contested

The most contested step in the process was weather the tranquilizer will work or not if the IV was inserted properly. Won't the media be able to see the first drug administered and it's effects?

then make it public

Do it on TV. People can choose to watch it or not! Would that make people happy?

Go for it!

Sure, but not the Statesman, they wouldn't sell nearly as many papers if you could flip on the TV and watch the execution yourself!

Good Policy doesn't give YOU the right...

Whatever you gotta do to sell papers Kevin. Who cares about the rest! How about writing an editorial about posting the picture and writing an article about an 18 year old girl who stole $100 out of the till at work. This never should have made it to the paper, it is a silly charge that is blown completely out of proportion. But hey keep doing your good work there, some sick bleeding heart will love it! Oh not to mention she hasn't even been found guilty yet... but you don't offer an apology for that right? You feel it is "good policy".

Unintended consequences?

If your desires were met at this crucial time, it's possible the execution team might develop stage fright and blunder. They have a sobering responsibility, but they are not actors putting on a show for your benefit as a reporter. Maybe before the next execution, we could have them practice before television cameras and with you present at every practice session, so they don't flub a production created by and for the media.

Some years ago I watched a doc-umentary on TV that showed the entire execution of a criminal by lethal injection - all the aspects you are worried about missing and much more (last visit with family members, last meal, the long walk to the death chamber, etc.) Don't recall what network aired it - probably PBS as I'm not sure I had access to the History or Discovery channels at that time. I don't know how many people watched that doc-umentary, but the public's support for the death penalty has not diminished since it was aired. How many more executions do you believe I need to watch in order to fully understand this practice that the public condones?

There are many things I don't like about our criminal justice system and our prison system, common practices I believe are far less civilized than the manner in which we execute prisoners, practices that effect the minds of people who will be returned to society, policies that have corrupted the meaning of truth and justice. I would that the press focus on those kinds of stories rather than a single procedural detail of a lethal injection.

Rhoades execution

I agree with Kevin R. except to degree. For executions of such heinous murderers we need to return to very public executions by hanging or firing squad and have all the People who wish to watch on any given lunch hour an execution is scheduled to participate in sending the convicted miscreant to death.

Of course, it would only be done after the conviction was reviewed to the nth degree to make sure the evidence, witness testimony and defense the charged received was certain and more than adequate. After that it's bye, bye.

For all the looney toons out there who have no conception of rights and liberties, capital punishment is self defense after-the-fact by the state. Someone who has been deprived of life, liberty and property would have, in likely 99% of the cases if they had the means, tried to defend their life to the point of killing the assailant prior to being killed themselves. Unless the jury is presented some evidence to the contrary then, the death penalty should apply upon conviction for a premeditated murderer and perhaps any intentional murder with no evidence of mitigating circomstance.

The state has no power to do anything to anyone that an individual cannot do, by right, themselves. Someone about to be killed by a murderer will, in all likelihood, choose to kill an assailant about to kill them rather than die. Capital Punishment is thus self-defense, after-the-fact.

IV insertion

is the sticking point? Seriously? I mean he is being put to death and someone is concerned that IV insertion may cause him some discomfort? /shaking head...


He is about to die... who is to say that he isn't a "faker" and starts freaking out because of needles.. the media then says that he was "tortured"... depends on your point of view right? Then the corrections department will have another public relations mess on their hands... (see gladiator prison articles)

He should just appeal on the grounds that he has Trypanophobia (extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles).

There are no cues to the condemned as to when execution starts

to tell him he is receiving the dose now would indeed be cruel.

Until he loses consciousness and dies there would be no clues to him. His vitals will be checked to assure he has expired and only then will the excecution be certified completed.

The executed is thoroughly restrained and as I saw somewhere here probably tranquilized.

Look here. I lost my girlfriend to cancer in '95 and she was delirious and flailing about the last day so the tranquilized her to prevent her injuring herself or the nurses. What do you think a condemned man would do? He'd be out of his mind and in much the same state. Should he bleed to death from a needle accident?

He has to die. He was found guilty of a capital offense and he had years to die, obscenely wrong compared to the victims who were gone in mere minutes. All we are hearing are a lot of Oh, yeah? What ifs. Nothing you do will save him.

Too many people will sit and look for white elephants when life is simply not going to yield to juvenile logic.

You don't always win. You have to move on to another effort.

Good Lord

Can we get Ol' Sparky fired up or what? This is dragging on and on and on. This guy is the epitome of human garbage.

Have to agree with you, VOR,

If we brought back the chair, tomorrow would be Fryday....Sunny...

It just doesn't matter

Statesman: None of your objections have merit. Your views do not matter because they run counter to the rest of society's. Whether the insertion of the needles is done without discomfort is meaningless. His comfort isn't a consideraiton. We are about to kill a man for committing crimes so henious and so merciless that our society thinks his death is warranted and will do so with some consideraiton as to how we do it. That is why he is not being hanged. The man deserves to die for what he did and we mercifully have decided to kill him by lethal injection. It is a merciful death.


Ask a lot of folks who place IVs for a living or draw blood. Even when you're good at it, there's nothing like an extraordinarily attentive audience (parents, loved ones, law enforcement) to raise the stress level and increase the chance of blowing the vein, etc. How about allowing someone (or someones) who NOT associated with media, but perhaps rather outside medical experts, to observe the insertion of the IV to verify that it's done correctly?


Conrad Murray, M.D. is just killin' time these days, and he's had a lot of experience pokin' needles and administerin' sedatives.

Where are the Statesman's Attorneys?

By all means, publish the editorial, but if you believe that you have a First Amendment right to witness the entire procedure, why hasn't the paper's legal staff filed a motion with the court? If the 9th Circuit's ruling is as firm as you say, it ought to be a slam dunk.




"The media is there to bear witness, on the public’s behalf. Its watchdog role is inherently clear." This statement is a joke!! The mother of Nolan Haddon will be there to bear witness and my thoughts and prayers are with her and the rest of the family of the victims along with the execution team who is stepping up to help justice be served.

"The insertion of the IVs is a crucial matter; in fact, it is central to Rhoades’ last-minute legal appeals. Rhoades’ attorneys have questioned whether the state’s execution team is adequately trained to administer an IV sedative that would render their client unconscious — and spare him from excruciating pain when drugs are injected to stop his breathing and stop his heart." Your argument is pointless, inserting an IV is not the same thing as administering the drug.

bye bye

Good riddence to bad rubbish... I would volunteer to put the needle in his arm... it may take me a couple days, but, I'm sure eventually I would find a vein....

I'm sorry my taxes have kept him alive...

I lived and worked (KPVI-TV) in Pocatello when Paul Rhoades went on his brutal killing spree. I covered parts of his trial as a young reporter (KTVB-TV). Some of the more heinous details have stuck with me TO THIS DAY. For that monster to claim "cruel and unusual punishment" is unimaginable. I expect to awaken tomorrow and know that my world is a little bit safer, despite being able to witness it.

How are the media trained

to asess the correct insertion of IVs? Granted, there should be some representation from the victims and the media and the government, each with a specific purpose in being there. But unless the media are medically trained to evaluate IV insertion, their presence at this point in the operation is just voyeurism. (yes, I know "asess" is misspelled, but the filter wouldn't let me spell it correctly).

central to Rhoades appeal?

"The insertion of the IVs is a crucial matter; in fact, it is central to Rhoades’ last-minute legal appeals. Rhoades’ attorneys have questioned whether the state’s execution team is adequately trained to administer an IV sedative that would render their client unconscious — and spare him from excruciating pain when drugs are injected to stop his breathing and stop his heart."

Insertion of the IV isn't central to Rhoades' legal arguement. The drugs used to execute him and the training of the staff to administer those drugs is his concern. It doesn't take a lot of training to learn to properly insert an IV and do so without causing un-necessary discomfort. It takes much more training to understand all the equipment, chemicals and the response of the body to those chemicals when learning to execute a living being. The execution team have been under going this training, as volunteers, for about a year since before it was time for Rhoades to be executed. They have been practicing at least once a week, for this execution, during the past month.

Not seeing Rhoades unvoluntarily restrained and having his IV started only protected the IDs of some of the execution team. The actual execution will be visible to the allowed media.

Just saying ...

… Society looses the ability to deter likeminded dark souls from being future murderers because of the delay of judgment and lack of its display.

Given the absoluteness of this murderer's actions, why are people so bent on softening the negative reinforcement society could capitalize on in this event – a deterrent if you will, for the next guy that wants to commit this kind of crime?

Let this guy suffer huge amounts of pain. Let him die over the period of days, one drop of blood at a time. Write about it in detail – put it out on display; not out of hate for him, or the sake of his victim’s families, but as a deterrent to a future murderer: you do the crime, and you will pay a price way beyond anything you can imagine!

They say he is a changed man, and I hope he is - for his sake he needs to seek Divine mercy and grace. But at this point the greatest contribution he can make to society is to die as an example to all that seek to be like him.

All that said, I feel bad for the Rhoades family. They are also victims in all this – and their suffering will last way past his lifetime!

Such is the nature of this kind of crime: lives are shattered!

to deter a murder

You believe protecting the identity of the execution team is "softening" of a murder? Nope, I don't see it. Did you hear about a mass number of qualified persons signing up to be volunteers for the execution team over a year ago? Of course not. The execution team has no back-up members. If anyone dropped out, there would be no one to replace them. There protection is of primary importance to the future of Idaho's death penalty. Without them, we essentially have no death penalty.

No ....

You missed the intent of my post completely. Clearly the execution team would be targeted with the current system in place.

My point is that the current system is not an effective deterrent for future murderers. If we do not like to have crimes like this happen, maybe we need to find effective and expedient ways to deal with the convicted - that makes the wanna-bees think twice about the consequences.

There is no deterrent for the actions of murder.

Murder is not a casual act. It's a breakdown of the mind that allows you to find somebody's life useless. It's an act of insanity. Killing somebody is to destroy them.
Having to kill somebody to protect yourself or others is a heavy burden.

Conviction is no deterrent. Nobody says to themself,"I'm not going to go to prison like Johnny did. I'm not going to kill".
Killing somebody is the most irrational and hardest thing to do deliberately.

That is why something such as driving drunk and killing a passenger in a wreck is manslaughter. No thought came to mind that you wanted to kill them but you were impaired and that led to their death. Whether a conscious plot or wanton, raging fear you intended to kill somebody.

In the end, murder is not usually suspected unless you blab to somebody or they find your plans in journals or on the computer.

You can help a person change but this can usually only mean somebody has indeed died.

People everywhere don't normally see killing as acceptable and so they keep murderers (as any other criminals) locked up.

If you ask me why they have differing sentences I will respectfully defer the reply. I am not a judge and those values have been set and adjusted for thousands of years.


Everybody wants to hue the knurled

“(The) fear that execution

“(The) fear that execution team members will be publicly identified and retaliated against is an overreaction, supported only by questionable speculation.”

I find that quote from supposedly the 9th Circuit Court totally ridiculous. Remember what happened to the first guy who got the first wolf in the first totally legal wolf season in Idaho. If anyone knows the identity of any on this execution team I would expect the same but worse. To me it's irrevelant who does it just do it right the first time.

Agree with KR

The media should be able to be present at all stages of this execution. They are there to report on the process. It is the role of the media, and it is one of the only things we have to keep the government honest.

Then I assume you would want KR and the media to......

be present and report in detail on:

the last meal
the last bowel movement
the last prayer
the last family visit
the last phone call
the last sedative
the last night in the cell
the last walk to the death chamber

After all - according to you and the 9th Circus Court of Appeals - the public has a right to know and its the role of media to report in detail. I see it for what it really is -- journalistic voyeurism.

According to the witnesses from the press, it was as expected.

The woman from AP (Rebecca), while making apologies for being a print reporter more than a speaker, was perhaps the best communicator and her answers were great. Ada County Coroner Sonnenberg, who was there for the last execution as well was matter of factly, may have bothered some with the clinical way he described it (correctly).

The county prosecutor who helped convict him said that he did not come to view the execution, he was there to support the victims after over 20 years who had become his friends over time. Thank you, sir.

It was probably a long press conference but not the same questions repeated to drag any 'hidden' answers out and the statement about, "wanting to get all the information we could out (in such words)" indicated the conference was indeed a good end to a not so normal event that went "smoothly" (a speaker's words, repeated often).

Of the four journalists I felt Mac King of Journal Boise probably had a hard time with the experience. He looked slightly worn and was subdued.

It WAS only less than an hour since they had finished watching an execution.


Everybody wants to hue the knurled

9th US Circuit Court of Appeals?

What a joke of a court! LMAO