Attorneys request reconsideration in Pizzuto death row case
By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
After the Idaho Supreme Court sided with Gov. Brad Little in August over the denial of Gerald Pizzuto Jr.’s commutation, his attorneys are asking for reconsideration.
The petition filed with the Supreme Court on Tuesday used harsh language in their plea.
“The Court sends a man to his death in this case by staking its public reputation on a fraud perpetrated against the Idaho people,” the petition states. “Until now, the Court had vigilantly policed against ‘unconstitutional attempts by the Legislature to limit the people’s ability to’ discharge their lawmaking responsibilities.”
The attorneys cited the Idaho Supreme Court’s previous decision in Reclaim Idaho’s 2021 lawsuit when the court struck down the Legislature’s 2021 voter initiative bill.
“Yet here the Court gives the Governor the sole commutation power after the people of Idaho declared three times their opposition to that policy. Worse, the Opinion disregards the information the people received about an amendment they themselves enacted and upholds a statute passed after the public was deliberately deceived by the legislature—a reality the Court does not even acknowledge, let alone explain.”
Defense attorneys took issue with the August opinion’s reasoning, saying it “is pervaded by history and policy.” They argue voters have repeatedly declined to give the governor sole commutation power.
They also argued the opinion was a “blueprint” for legislators who want to deceive voters.
“What happened here, to recapitulate, was that legislators tried to move the commutation power to the Governor, were rejected by the people in their attempt, and then accomplished the same goal by intentionally choosing language that disguised their motives from the voters. The Court now places its stamp of approval on the fraud committed against the citizens of Idaho,” the petition states.
The initial opinion from the court came after the Commission of Pardons and Parole voted 4-3 to grant Pizzuto a commutation recommendation in 2021, meaning he’d serve life in prison rather than death.
But Little denied the commutation in December, citing the brutality of Pizzuto’s crimes. Pizzuto’s attorneys sued, arguing Little did not have the authority to deny the Commission’s recommendations.
Pizzuto, 66, remains on death row after being convicted in the 1985 deaths of Berta Herndon and her nephew Delbert Herndon outside of McCall. His two co-defendants, William Odom and James Rice, were given lesser sentences for their roles in the crime.
The defense asks that the court issues a new opinion or hear new oral arguments.
The Attorney General’s Office has not yet filed a response and the Court is not obligated to grant Pizzuto reconsideration.
Pizzuto also has a pending federal case that remains ongoing before U.S. District Judge David Nye.
Meanwhile, he remains incarcerated with the Idaho Department of Correction and a new death warrant has not been issued.