Idaho Death Row Inmate Loses Latest Battle to Avoid Execution

By Tom Bacon

An inmate who has been on Idaho's death row for 27 years has lost another round in his long battle to avoid execution. Gerald Pizzuto's mental acuity was the point of contention in his latest court broadside. The 57-year old inmate's lawyers argued that federal and state law prohibit putting to death anyone who is mentally retarded.

Pizzuto's IQ measured 72 when he was age 18, and lawyers for the state of Idaho agreed his mental capacity might have dropped in the years since because of his heavy drug habits and history of seizures. But the Idaho Supreme Court ruled he was not mentally retarded, and now a panel of federal appeals judges has upheld the state's highest court.

Pizzuto was 27 when he murdered two people at a mountain cabin near McCall after deciding that he was going to rob them. He openly bragged about the grisly murders and called himself a highwayman.

The federal judges held that Idaho law which defines mental retardation is sufficient and fair. The law was put on the books following a U-S Supreme Court holding that mentally deficient prisoners may not be executed.

The appeals judges noted that the preferred term now is "intellectual disability," but they used the older, more blunt phrase because it has been used consistently in Pizzuto's appeals. Pizzuto's death penalty case was the first one involving a legal test of Idaho's definition of mental retardation.
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