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(New York) – Amnesty International called on officials in Idaho today to prevent the first execution in that state in 17 years. Paul Rhoades, 54, who has been on death row for nearly 25 years, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Friday. A psychologist described a childhood of abuse that damaged him with little hope of becoming a healthy adult.
If the execution takes place, it would be the first in Idaho since 1994 and only the second in more than a half century.
Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International USA’s Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty, said: "We encourage the state of Idaho to stop the execution of Paul Rhoades, especially as it would break a 17 year-old moratorium on executions in that state. Tomorrow's lethal injection, if carried out, will not make anyone safer or more whole. Idaho should move toward ending its death penalty altogether as a positive step for human rights, an affirmation of the value of human life and as an opportunity to redirect significant resources wasted by an almost irrelevant death penalty toward more effective means of law enforcement and support for murder victim families. Long-term incarceration is a clear alternative that neither violates human rights nor creates all of the myriad injustices of the broken U.S. death penalty."
The Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole has refused to hold a clemency hearing for Rhoades, who was convicted of three separate murders and sentenced to death in 1988.
"The execution of Paul Rhoades looms at a time when many in the U.S. are questioning the death penalty and when a clear majority of countries have turned against judicial killing," said Rob Freer, Amnesty International's U.S.A. researcher.
Rhoades was arrested in March 25, 1987 and charged with three separate murders committed over the previous month. He was sentenced to death a year later.
The Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole has refused to hold a clemency hearing for Rhoades.
In his petition for clemency, he wrote: "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."
A number of Rhoades' fellow inmates submitted letters in support of clemency saying he had changed their lives by persuading them to turn away from violence or by helping them in other ways.
Lawyers for Rhoades 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 U.S. Court of Appeals.
Rhoades’ childhood was marked by physical, psychological and emotional abuse. In 2006, a psychologist described his as "a damaged human being with little opportunity to be a healthy adult”.
The judges who imposed the death sentences on Rhoades did not have the full picture about his background and severe addiction to the drug methamphetamine.
Rhoades' victims were school teacher Susan Michelbacher and convenience store clerks Stacy Baldwin and Nolan Haddon.
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. Wells had given up appeals against his death sentence.
There have been 42 executions in the United States this year and 1,276 since executions resumed in 1977.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org.