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US state of Idaho urged to prevent first execution in 17 years

Twitter and Facebook campaign targets Idaho governor CL ‘Butch’ Otter

The US state of Idaho should prevent its first execution in 17 years, Amnesty International has urged ahead of tomorrow's planned execution of death row prisoner Paul Rhoades .

Rhoades, 54, is due to be put to death by lethal injection tomorrow, in what would be Idaho's first execution since 1994, and only its second in more than half a century. Amnesty supporters are using social media to contact Idaho’s Governor C L ‘Butch’ Otter, urging him to prevent the execution.

Rhoades has been on death row for nearly a quarter of a century. He was arrested on 25 March 1987 and charged with three separate murders committed over the previous month. He was sentenced to death a year later.

Rhoades' victims were school teacher Susan Michelbacher and convenience store clerks Stacy Baldwin and Nolan Haddon. He received two death sentences for the murders of Stacy Baldwin and Susan Michelbacher, and life imprisonment for the murder of Nolan Haddon.

A number of Rhoades' fellow inmates have submitted letters in support of clemency saying that he had changed their lives by persuading them to turn away from violence or by helping them in other ways.

His clemency petition stated: "Over the past 24 years, I learned that repentance is the only positive way to express my guilt and remorse. For me, repentance means finding ways to make amends for my actions, even if those efforts seem inconsequential in comparison to the crimes I committed… I try to make amends by helping others move from anger toward reconciliation."

However, the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole has refused to hold a clemency hearing for Rhoades. He had sought the hearing and a commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Amnesty International USA researcher Rob Freer said:

"The execution of Paul Rhoades looms at a time when many in the USA are questioning the death penalty and when a clear majority of countries have turned against judicial killing.

"The death penalty rejects any notion of reconciliation or rehabilitation, labelling the condemned prisoner as an object to be toyed with and discarded. This is a punishment that offers no constructive solutions to violent crime.”

Rhoades’ lawyers are challenging Idaho’s lethal injection procedures, including the selection and training of the execution team. On Monday, a federal judge refused to issue a stay of execution. The issue is now before the US Court of Appeals.

Rhoades’ childhood was marked by physical, psychological and emotional abuse. In 2006, a psychologist described him as "a damaged human being with little opportunity to be a healthy adult”. The judges who imposed his death sentences did not have a full picture about his background and severe addiction to the drug methamphetamine.

There are 14 people under sentence of death in Idaho. The last execution, of Keith Wells in 1994, was the first in the state since 1957. Keith Wells had given up appeals against his death sentence.

There have been 42 executions in the USA this year and 1,276 since judicial killing resumed there in 1977.

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