Idaho Supreme Court won’t reconsider death row clemency case

Legal Analysis

The Idaho Supreme Court says it will not reconsider the clemency case of a terminally ill man who is facing execution for his role in the 1985 slayings of two gold prospectors near McCall.

The high court made the decision Friday in Gerald Ross Pizzuto Jr.’s case. The decision means the state remains free to seek a death warrant for Pizzuto. Once issued, the warrant would set Pizzuto’s execution by lethal injection in the next 30 days.

Deborah A. Czuba, the head of the Federal Defender Services of Idaho’s capital case unit, said in a prepared statement that the Idaho Supreme Court decision was disappointing.

“There is still time for Gov. Brad Little to accept the recommendation of his parole commissioners and let Mr. Pizzuto die a natural death in prison,” Czuba said. “If not, our hope is that the State will have enough grace to wait at least until after the Thanksgiving and Christmas season before making Department of Correction employees participate in a needless and traumatizing execution during the holidays.”

Pizzuto has spent more than three decades on death row and was originally scheduled to be put to death in June of 2021. He asked for clemency last year because he has terminal bladder cancer, heart disease, diabetes and decreased intellectual function.

The Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole voted 4-3 to recommend that his sentence be changed to life in prison, citing the torture and abuse he experienced as a child and his health problems. But Idaho Gov. Brad Little rejected the recommendation, noting the brutal nature of Pizzuto’s crimes and pointing out that the slayings occurred shortly after Pizzuto was released from prison after serving time for rape.

Pizzuto’s attorneys appealed the matter to the Idaho Supreme Court, contending that the governor lacked the authority to reject the commission’s recommendation. But the high court ruled in August that the governor’s decision to overrule the recommendation was legal.

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