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Idaho death row inmate Pizzuto asks state for clemency

UPDATED: Tue., May 11, 2021

By Rebecca Boone Associated Press

BOISE – An Idaho death row inmate with terminal cancer and heart disease is asking the state to let him die naturally rather than kill him by lethal injection next month.

Gerald Ross Pizzuto Jr. is scheduled for execution on June 2 for the 1985 beating deaths of Berta Herndon, 58, and her nephew Del Herndon, 37, at a remote Idaho County cabin. His attorneys announced Tuesday that they filed a clemency petition on his behalf to the Idaho Pardons & Parole Commission.

Pizzuto has terminal bladder cancer, diabetes and heart disease and is confined to a wheelchair. He’s been on hospice care since 2019, when doctors said he likely wouldn’t survive for another year.

Throughout his childhood, Pizzuto was tortured, raped and severely beaten by his stepfather and sometimes by his stepfather’s friends, according to his clemency petition. His stepfather beat Pizzuto with a whip, cattle prod, horse crop and even a 2 x 4 piece of lumber, and sometimes Pizzuto and his siblings would be forced to sleep in a dog house and eat dog food. He sustained repeated brain injuries and had trouble communicating, keeping himself clean and relating to other kids, his attorneys said.

“Mr. Pizzuto never had a chance in life. He was tortured in unimaginable ways throughout his childhood,” his attorneys in the capital habeas unit of the Federal Defender Services of Idaho wrote in the clemency petition. “Merciless beatings and savage rapes battered and scarred that little boy.

The 65-year-old has spent 34 years in an isolated cell on death row, his attorneys noted.

“The ravages of terminal cancer and heart disease punish him more every day, binding him to a wheelchair, a prisoner of his own failing body,” the attorneys wrote. “While it is too late to save that little boy, it is not too late to show Jerry Pizzuto mercy.”

Pizzuto is one of eight people on Idaho’s death row.

Prosecutors said Pizzuto, armed with a .22 caliber rifle, tied the victims’ wrists behind their backs and bound their legs to steal their money. He bludgeoned them both and shot Del Herndon.

Idaho has executed three people since capital punishment was resumed nationwide in 1976.

Keith Eugene Wells was executed in 1994, Paul Ezra Rhodes was executed in 2011 and Richard Albert Leavitt was executed in 2012.

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