On November 18, 2011, Idaho executed Paul Rhoades, for the murder of 34-year-old schoolteacher Susan Michelbacher and Stacy Baldwin, a 21-year-old convenience store clerk, during a methamphetamine binge. He was also serving a life sentence for the killing of a second clerk, Nolan Haddon.
Rhoades was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988. In his clemency petition, he said: “Over the past 24 years, I learned that repentance is the only positive way to express my guilt and remorse . . . I try to make amends by helping others move from anger toward reconciliation.” Indeed, as noted by Amnesty International, “former and current inmates, from death row and elsewhere, have submitted letters to the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole describing the difference they say Paul Rhoades has made to their lives by persuading them to turn away from violence or helping them in other ways.”
In a sworn statement in support of clemency, a psychiatrist noted that “Rhoades’ genetic and social history created a perfect storm of risk factors for drug addiction,” including a childhood marked by physical, psychological and emotional abuse, and a family history replete with serious mental health issues, including substance abuse, depression, and suicides.
As Amnesty concludes, “the judges who imposed the death sentences did not have the full picture about Paul Rhoades’s background and severe drug addiction. Nor could they have known what subsequent research has shown about methamphetamine’s highly addictive nature, how it changes the brain and that it is highly correlated with homicide.”
This was the 42nd execution in the United States in 2011, and the first execution in Idaho in 17 years.
Fair and Unbalanced