Idaho Execution Rescheduled for 2nd Time as State Scrambles to Find Lethal Injection Drugs

Idaho Execution
Gerald Pizzuto in 2007.Idaho Department of Corrections

The execution of terminally ill Death Row inmate Gerald Pizzuto in Idaho has been rescheduled for the second time as the state struggles to find a place to buy lethal injection drugs.

Idaho's execution of terminally ill Death Row inmate Gerald Pizzuto has been rescheduled for a second time as the state scrambles to find somewhere to buy lethal injection drugs, authorities said.

The shortage of drugs used in lethal injections has been an increasing challenge in recent years after several pharmaceutical companies stopped selling the chemicals to prison systems because of botched executions, saying their drugs are meant to prolong life and treat medical conditions.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," the drug manufacturer said in a 2016 statement. "Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

Pizzuto's new execution date is March 23. "The state will continue to attempt to obtain the necessary drugs" for lethal injection, Attorney General Raúl Labrador said in a statement. "Pizzuto should serve the punishment the court sentenced him to in 1986. He has tried and failed for 37 years to change the outcome of his trial and sentence."

The attorney general also called on the legislature to "consider giving the state an alternative method of execution," Labrador said. A bill to allow the state to use firing squads as an alternative method of execution when lethal injection is unavailable is currently being debated by Idaho lawmakers.

Pizzuto, 66, is dying from late-stage bladder cancer and has a host of other serious health conditions including COPD, his attorneys said. He has been under hospice care for more than two years.

His lawyers have asked the state to let him die in prison, citing the taxpayer cost of executing him. 

The Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole recommended last year that Pizzuto’s death sentence be reduced to life in prison, in part because of his terminal illnes. The governor rejected the state parole board’s recommendation, citing Pizzuto’s violent crimes.

Pizzuto was convicted in 1986 of murdering two people in an armed robbery. He has unsuccessfully appealed that verdict several times.

His execution was delayed in December after state officials said they could not find a way to purchase the lethal injection drugs. It was delayed again for the same reason late last month.

Besides Pfizer, other international pharmaceutical firms have balked at selling their inventories for capital punishment. Johnson & Johnson, Dash Pharmaceuticals and Sagent Pharmaceuticals have also prevented their drugs from being used in executions.

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