IDAHO FALLS — A 7th District Judge has scheduled death row inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades to be executed next month. He would be the first person put to death in Idaho since 1994 and the state's second execution since 1957.
Rhoades, who was convicted of killing three people in Idaho Falls and Blackfoot in 1988, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 18. Seventh District Judge Jon Shindurling issued the death warrants Wednesday.
Rhoades was served at 4:15 p.m. and immediately moved into an isolation cell at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise, where he has been incarcerated since March 1988, according to the state Department of Correction.
The inmate executed in 1994, Keith Wells, voluntarily gave up his federal appeals and asked to be put to death.
Rhoades was given two death sentences for the sexual assault and murder of Idaho Falls teacher Susan Michelbacher, 34, whose bullet-ridden body was found in March 1987. He also was given two death sentences for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Stacy Dawn Baldwin, 24, a Blackfoot convenience store clerk who was shot to death in February 1987.
Rhoades was also sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to the March 1987 shooting death of Nolan Haddon, 21, a Blackfoot man who worked at an Idaho Falls convenience store.
The death warrants issued by Shindurling on Wednesday were for the murders of Michelbacher and Baldwin.
Rhoades still has legal avenues to possibly prevent an execution. He has filed a federal lawsuit against the state, saying Idaho's method of lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and that problems with the lethal injection system would render his execution unconstitutional. The state has asked the federal court to throw out that lawsuit. The case has been assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush.
Bush could decide to issue a stay of execution while the lawsuit works through the court system. If he declines to issue a stay and the lawsuit isn't resolved by Nov. 18, the execution might move forward as planned.
Additionally, Rhoades could ask the Idaho State Parole Commission for clemency. If the parole commission decides to consider his request, it will likely schedule a hearing and publish notice of the hearing for four weeks. Then it would make a recommendation to the governor to either grant or deny clemency, and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter would have 30 days to decide whether to grant the clemency request.
Officials with the Idaho Department of Correction have been working for months to get the execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution ready for use. Department Director Brent Reinke told the Board of Correction on Friday that an execution team is in place and the team has been holding regular practices in anticipation of an execution.
Unlike Wells, who was executed in 1994 after asking to be put to death, Rhoades has vigorously fought his convictions in the two decades since he was sent to death row. On Oct. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Rhoades' final appeal — a claim that a lower court should have had an evidentiary hearing when deciding whether his attorneys effectively represented him during sentencing.
Otter's spokesman, Jon Hanian, said that in general, the governor supports the death penalty and believes it is "a solemn, serious responsibility that must be performed with respect, professionalism and integrity."
But Hanian stressed that Otter has not yet considered Rhoades' case.
"He will weigh all the facts in this case when they are presented to him, and he will make his decision at that time," Hanian said.