Idaho secured a death warrant Wednesday to end the life of one of its longest-serving death row inmates, setting a date next month for the state’s first execution in more than a decade.
Gerald Pizzuto, 66, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Dec. 15. He has remained on Idaho death row since his May 1986 murder conviction for killing two people during an armed robbery north of McCall in the summer of 1985.
The death warrant, signed Wednesday by District Court Judge Jay Gaskill, marks the second time in as many years that the state has sought to execute Pizzuto. He has avoided three prior execution dates during his more than 36 years on death row, most recently in June 2021 after the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole granted him a clemency review.
The Idaho attorney general’s office, which is overseeing Pizzuto’s execution process, declined an Idaho Statesman request for comment.
On Wednesday, Pizzuto’s attorneys with the nonprofit Federal Defender Services of Idaho called on Gov. Brad Little to uphold the parole board’s prior recommendation to allow their client to die of natural causes in prison.
“The state is trying to execute Mr. Pizzuto as quickly as possible to prevent the courts from giving thorough and careful consideration to whether his execution would be lawful,” said Deborah Czuba, supervising attorney of the nonprofit’s unit that oversees death penalty cases. “The governor can still accept the recommendation of his commission and spare Mr. Pizzuto, the public and especially the prison staff a needless execution.”
The nonprofit law office previously requested that the state wait to pursue Pizzuto’s execution until at least after the holiday season, out of consideration for Idaho Department of Correction employees avoiding participation in a lethal injection before the end of the year.
Pizzuto’s attorneys committed to exploring all legal avenues in state and federal court to block their terminally ill client’s execution. Pizzuto is terminally ill with late-stage bladder cancer, and has been under hospice care for more than two years.
Pizzuto’s latest death warrant comes after the Idaho Supreme Court last month denied his attorneys’ request for a rehearing in a recent case centered around whether the governor has final say over clemency decisions. The state’s high court ruled in August that he does, after voters approved a constitutional amendment passed by the Idaho Legislature, which sought to rein in the parole board’s power.
The question was relevant to Pizzuto, because the parole board voted 4-3 last year to reduce his sentence to life in prison, based on arguments about his troubled upbringing and serious health issues.
Little rejected the parole board’s decision, upholding Pizzuto’s death sentence. His attorneys questioned the governor’s constitutional authority to do so and filed suit. They won an initial ruling in district court before an appeal sent the case to the state Supreme Court for a decision.
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