Idaho governor denies commutation for Gerald Pizzuto, Jr.

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Gerald Pizzuto, Jr. is 65 years old, dependent on a wheelchair, diabetic, and on hospice care because of advanced bladder cancer. He suffers from the effects of repeated brain injuries and endured horrific sexual and physical abuse from the time he was a young child. He is also imprisoned on Idaho’s death row since his conviction in the 1985 murder of 58-year-old Berta Herndon and her 37-year-old nephew, Del Herndon.

Late last month, Gov. Brad Little denied the state Commission of Pardons and Parole recommendation to commute Pizzuto’s death sentence, clearing the way for his execution on June 2.

“The severity of Pizzuto’s brutal, senseless, and indiscriminate killing spree strongly warrants against commutation,” Little wrote in a letter to the executive director of the parole board.

In its recommendation to the governor, the parole board stressed that its 4-3 vote “was not based on any doubt or question about Pizzuto’s guilt or the horrific nature of his crimes,” but instead is “one of mercy… due to his current medical condition and evidence of his decreased intellectual functioning.”

But Little said commutation would be “inappropriate,” begging the question of what is appropriate about killing a terminally ill, 65-year-old man in a wheelchair, who suffers from developmental disabilities and brain injuries, diabetes, heart disease, and bladder cancer?

“[He] has been punished and in pain nearly every day of his miserable life. . . . Mercy is justified for the crippled, dying man he is now, and a long time coming for the unloved, tortured boy who fell through the cracks,” Capital Habeas Unit attorney Deborah Czuba, said in a statement reported by AP news.

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