May 21, 2021 Executions

Idaho Stays June Execution of Terminally Ill Prisoner, Schedules November Clemency Hearing

By Matt Propper, DPRP Intern

The planned execution of Gerald Ross Pizzuto Jr.—a terminally ill individual on Idaho’s death row—was stayed after the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole granted his request for a commutation hearing. Counsel for the State stipulated to the stay of execution following the Commission’s decision.

Pizzuto, who was scheduled to die on June 2nd by lethal injection, will now have the opportunity to make his case for clemency during a hearing in November. Pizzuto has been on death row for 35 years after being found guilty of the murders of two people. Since 2019, he has been in hospice care with terminal bladder cancer, chronic heart disease, diabetes, and a history of brain damage.

At the November hearing, Pizzuto intends to highlight his horrific childhood at the hands of his stepfather, who severely beat and raped Pizzuto regularly for years—abuse his sister describes as “horror that most people couldn’t survive.” One of Pizzuto’s attorneys, Deborah Czuba with the Federal Defender Services of Idaho, stated that she looks forward to “proving that he deserves mercy.”

In the days prior to the Commission’s decision, Pizzuto filed an application for a stay of execution and a petition for extraordinary writ and original petition for writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition alleges that during an undisclosed meeting, “the prosecutor and trial judge…secretly orchestrated a key witness’s devastating testimony against [Pizzuto] in return for an undisclosed promise to mete out a lenient sentence.” The Court had not ruled before Idaho stayed the execution.

Pizzuto is one of eight people on Idaho’s death row. Richard Albert Leavitt’s 2012 execution was the most recent in the state—one of three since 1976

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