Editorial: Idaho’s death machine chooses a dying man | Notice

Think of the death penalty mechanism as a noisy, swirling, random maze.

The vast percentage of people accused of committing the roughly 16,000 murders in the United States each year is quickly ruled out; their crimes cannot be executed.

Those who reside in the 23 states, including Washington, where the death penalty does not exist, are also bypassed.

Then there are those who, despite the gruesome nature of their crimes, had something to negotiate in return for a life sentence. Among them, Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River killer responsible for 49 murders.

Next come those condemned to death whose convictions or sentences were overturned on appeal.

Remember the growing number – now up to 185 – of people who have spent years in the death row to be exonerated based on DNA and other new evidence. Among them is Charles Fain of Idaho.

Next are the few who deceive the executioner into dying of natural causes before the appeal process is complete.

After all of this, Idaho’s death penalty mechanism chose Gerald Pizzuto Jr. for execution on June 2 by lethal injection.

That is, if the Grim Reaper doesn’t catch it first.

The 65-year-old has been on Idaho death row for almost 35 years for the 1985 murders of Berta Herndon and her nephew, Del Herndon, at an Idaho County cabin.

A clemency petition filed by the Federal Defender Office of Idaho lists Pizzuto’s ailments: end-stage bladder cancer, COPD, type 2 diabetes, and chronic and coronary heart disease. He suffered two heart attacks. Confined to a wheelchair and palliative care, Pizzuto is literally on borrowed time. In 2019, his doctors estimated he would be dead within a year.

Not only have Idaho taxpayers covered the equivalent of Pizzuto’s life sentence, but everything else that goes with the death penalty – appeals, lawyers, the physical infrastructure of inmate housing. and then preparing for the once in a decade count with the chamber of death. Studies from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas alone suggest that a death sentence costs three times as much as a life sentence.

It is not an anomaly either. Thanks to a decades-long appeal process, America’s death row is filled with people like Pizzuto – old, sick, and possibly demented. In the 20 years leading up to 2016, the number of convicted inmates aged 60 and over had increased more than 11 times to 459.

Public safety? What does the public have to fear from a sick and dying man?

Deterrence? Who would have traded places with Pizzuto over the past three and a half decades?

Closure for the families of the victims? Consider what Marilyn Peterson Armor and Mark S. Umbreit learned from relatives of murder victims in Texas, which has the death penalty, and Minnesota, which does not. In their study published by Marquette Law Review ten years ago, they found that families in Minnesota had “higher levels of physical, psychological and behavioral health” because the certainty of the perpetrator’s punishment gave survivors “More control, probably because the appeal process was successful. , predictable and completed within two years of conviction; while the finality of the Texas appeal process was long, elusive, delayed and unpredictable. “

If the thought of executing a dying man for a crime committed in 1985 for no apparent reason other than capital punishment leaves you a little uneasy, consider the efforts Idaho will likely make to achieve it.

Because the pharmaceutical industry is restricting its products to save lives, the Idaho Corrections Department has turned to the alley.

As the Utah Investigative Journalism Project and the Salt Lake Tribune discovered, the state ultimately turned to Salt Lake City compound pharmacist Richard Rasmuson for the 2011 execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades. But after taking $ 5,000 or $ 6,000 in cash – the state says it was over $ 10,000 – eight days before Rhoades’ execution began, Rasmuson had regrets: “And then, almost immediately after I had already signed up, I decided it was not a good thing. idea and I wouldn’t do it again.

Tommy Simmons of the Idaho Press reported over a year ago that correctional officials exchanged a suitcase filled with more than $ 10,000 in cash in a Tacoma Walmart parking lot for the deadly compounds used to execute Richard Leavitt on June 12, 2012.

Never mind, the black eye Idaho will have when it executes a man dying with chemicals obtained in parking lot drug cases.

It is extremely unusual if not incredibly cruel.

Doesn’t the US Constitution have something to say about this? – MT

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About Norman Griggs

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