By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The Idaho County District Court on Thursday set a hearing in the case of Gerald Pizzuto Jr., who’s been on death row since 1986, over whether a death warrant may be issued.
Pizzuto, 66, was convicted in the 1985 killings 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.
If and when a death warrant is signed, the Idaho Department of Correction is required to carry out the execution within 30 days.
The hearing, set for 2:30 p.m. PT on Dec. 8, comes after a recent denial for reconsideration from the Idaho Supreme Court.
On Thursday, Pizzuto’s attorneys asked a federal judge in his pending case to issue an injunction, prohibiting the state from obtaining a death warrant until discovery in the federal case is complete.
The federal case revolves around the type of chemicals used in executions. The court discovery schedule is set to be complete in February 2023, but the defense fears the state will obtain a death warrant before that time.
“A death warrant signed before this timeline reaches its end would render the (federal) Court’s scheduling order meaningless,” the defense wrote in its request.
Pizzuto narrowly avoided execution last year after he was granted a communitation hearing. The Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole granted Pizzuto the commutation hearing in November 2021 and voted to recommend the commutation in a 4-3 vote. Gov. Brad Little denied that recommendation in December.
The commission members who supported the commutation wrote “This recommendation is one of mercy due to Mr. Pizzuto’s current medical condition and evidence of his decreased intellectual functioning.”
Pizzuto is terminally ill and is diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer and a heart condition.
Governor Little said last December that the crimes were “brutal, senseless and indiscriminate,” and denied the Commission’s recommendation.
Pizzuto’s attorneys fought the governor’s denial, but the Idaho Supreme Court sided with Little. The attorneys asked the Supreme Court for reconsideration, but on Oct. 28 the Idaho Supreme Court said it would not reconsider its decision.