On June 1, 2024, an Idaho jury sentenced Chad Daybell to death for the 2019 murders of his first wife and his second wife’s two youngest children. Mr. Daybell pleaded not guilty to multiple first-degree murder, fraud, and conspiracy charges, but after being found guilty, he chose to waive his right to present mitigating evidence during his sentencing hearing. With this decision, Mr. Daybell declined the opportunity to provide the jury with reasons why he should not be sentenced to death. Judge Steven Boyce confirmed with Mr. Daybell that he did not intend to present any mitigation and Mr. Daybell said, “that is my choice.” John Prior, his only defense attorney, argued in opening and closing statements that Mr. Daybell’s second wife, Lori Daybell, had changed him and “created the person who committed these crimes.” Lori Daybell was found guilty in an earlier trial and sentenced to three life sentences.  She is currently awaiting trial in Arizona on a separate murder change. 

Following their release from jury duty, two jurors spoke with local news and discussed Mr. Daybell’s decision not to present mitigating evidence. One of the jurors, Tracie Bradley, said when it came to determining the sentence, “it’s like there was no mitigating circumstances to not justify the death penalty after what he did.” Ms. Bradley added that “it was very shocking that [Mr. Daybell] wouldn’t say anything.” In 1976, the United States Supreme Court held that juries must consider the character and record of individual defendants before imposing a death sentence. The Court noted that “the fundamental respect for humanity” underlying the Eighth Amendment required such considerations. These considerations are usually considered in the sentencing phase, so that the jury can make an individualized sentencing determination.  

During the final days of Mr. Daybell’s trial, media reported that the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) had purchased three doses of pentobarbital, the drug used in lethal injections, for $100,000. This purchase price is double what IDOC spent in October 2023 for the same kind and quantity of drugs. In 2011 and 2012, IDOC paid about $25,000 for the pentobarbital used in the state’s last two executions.

In February 2024, IDOC unsuccessfully attempted to execute Thomas Creech because of difficulties establishing an IV line. Mr. Creech has been on death row for nearly 50 years, and his attorney alleges that he “is still struggling with severe mental health trauma due to the botched execution.” For Mr. Creech’s scheduled execution, IDOC officials prepared two of three doses of pentobarbital in their possession, leaving just one dose remaining for future use. Josh Tewalt, the Director of IDOC, acknowledged after pausing Mr. Creech’s execution that they would need more pentobarbital to carry out future lethal injection executions, and was confident they could acquire those drugs when necessary. Attorneys for Mr. Creech have renewed their claims of cruel and unusual punishment because of the more than eight times the execution team attempted to establish an IV line to administer the execution drug.

Prior to Mr. Creech’s botched execution, the state of Idaho issued three separate death warrants for Gerald Pizzuto, with each date being postponed. At least one of these dates was postponed because of the state’s inability to acquire lethal injection drugs. Mr. Pizzuto, who has been on death row for nearly 40 years, has been receiving hospice treatment for late-stage bladder cancer for more than three years. Mr. Pizzuto’s March 2023 scheduled execution was indefinitely paused by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who granted him a hearing in his claim that the state of Idaho violates his Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment by repeatedly scheduling execution dates while knowing the state does not have the means to carry it out. 

Mr. Pizzuto also filed a legal claim seeking the presence of a religious advisor in the execution chamber. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Ramirez v. Collier, the Idaho DOC voluntarily agreed to his requests. But the IDOC has not changed its written policy, which does not allow for a spiritual advisor in the chamber. When the IDOC moved to dismiss the lawsuit on mootness grounds, Mr. Pizzuto argued the case should remain live until the written policies were changed but the district court dismissed, saying he no longer had a personal stake in the case.

Attorneys for Mr. Pizzuto have also asked that the U.S. District Court bar Idaho from attempting another execution of Mr. Creech, arguing that he is a material witness who can prove Idaho’s inability to carry out an execution without violating his constitutional rights. “If the [state of Idaho is] permitted to destroy Mr. Pizzuto’s opportunity to present this court with the testimony of Mr. Creech by executing him, Mr. Pizzuto faces irreparable harm,” said Mr. Pizzuto’s defense attorneys. They added that “without Mr. Creech’s testimony, the [state] can simply assert, as they previously have, that the execution team will make no mistakes during Mr. Pizzuto’s execution.”