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Planned execution is vacated in Idaho death penalty case

The Idaho Department of Correction has been unable to obtain the lethal injection drugs.

IDAHO, USA — This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

The planned Dec. 15 execution of Gerald Pizzuto has been called off, and the death warrant will be allowed to expire, as the Idaho Department of Correction has been unable to obtain the lethal injection drugs, according to a court filing today.

In a memo dated today from Idaho Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt to the Idaho Board of Correction, the governor's office and the Idaho Attorney General's office, Tewalt said, "Our efforts to obtain the necessary chemicals have been unsuccessful to date."

"While our efforts to secure chemicals remain ongoing, I have no reason to believe our status will change prior to the scheduled execution on December 15, 2022," Tewalt said in the memo. "In my professional judgement, I believe it is in the best interest of justice to allow the death warrant to expire and stand down our execution preparation."

He added, "There is no more solemn responsibility than implementing capital punishment, and it is a responsibility this agency approaches with the gravity and care it deserves."

Tewalt's memo was attached to a filing in federal court today filed by the Idaho Attorney General's office. Also today, Pizzuto's attorneys filed notice with the court that in view of the state's action, they are withdrawing a motion for a stay of execution.

"As has been true throughout the course of the stay litigation, the State is without the drugs needed to execute Mr. Pizzuto," wrote attorney Mary Spears. "Consequently, the State has notified the parties and this Court that all execution preparation by the Idaho Department of Correction will cease, and that the death warrant will be allowed to expire. ... Withdrawal of the Application for Stay of Execution is therefore warranted at this time."

Pizzuto was sentenced to death for two 1985 murders, in which he bludgeoned to death Berta Herndon and her nephew, Delbert, during a robbery at their mountain cabin. Pizzuto, 66, is terminally ill, with bladder cancer, heart disease, diabetes and decreased intellectual function, and sought clemency. A divided Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole commuted his sentence to life in prison, but Gov. Brad Little rejected the recommendation, and the Idaho Supreme Court upheld the governor's ability to do so, prompting the death warrant. 

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