BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s attorney general has obtained a court order that requires a terminally ill death row inmate to be executed within 30 days, even though the state has no way to carry out the death sentence.
Idaho Department of Correction officials have not been able to obtain the chemicals used in lethal injection executions for several months, and two previous death warrants issued for Gerald Ross Pizzuto Jr. have already gone unfulfilled. Pizzuto has spent more than three decades on death row for his role in the 1985 slayings of two gold prospectors.
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Normally a death warrant also triggers a flurry of preparations by prison officials, but Idaho Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt said he was putting many of those procedures on hold while the department continues its “efforts to lawfully source chemicals.”
Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador announced the order Friday, just two days after a legislative panel introduced a bill that would bring back firing squads as a method of execution. That never-used option was stricken from state law in 2009, but the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug would allow it when lethal injection isn’t available.
Labrador said his office is required to obtain a new death warrant while the state works to get the necessary drugs.
“Idaho law is clear, those who commit the most egregious crimes deserve the ultimate punishment,” he said in a statement. “We followed the law and obtained a new death warrant.”
The attorney general acknowledged that each new court proceeding increases stress on the victims’ family members and said he hoped lawmakers would consider allowing an alternative method of execution.
Pizzuto’s attorneys questioned the timing and said getting a new death warrant now does not make sense.
“It also demonstrates a clear lack of professionalism and a cruel disregard for the emotional torment it causes Mr. Pizzuto, as well as the stress and anxiety it creates for everyone else involved,” Deborah A. Czuba, the supervising attorney of the Federal Defenders of Idaho’s capital habeas unit, said in a statement.
“We find the timing of the warrant particularly curious, given that it was sought by Attorney General Labrador while he advocates for a new law that would bring back the firing squad,” Czuba added.
Czuba also suggested the issue could be avoided if Idaho Gov. Brad Little would reconsider his decision to deny Pizzuto clemency despite a parole board’s recommendation that his sentence be commuted to life without parole.
In its recommendation, the board cited Pizzuto’s terminal bladder cancer and other health problems as well as the torture and abuse he endured as a child. But Little said the brutal nature of the killings merited the death sentence.