BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments on whether the state's constitution gives a governor the power to veto a state commission’s clemency decision for a death row inmate, but held off making a ruling.
Gerald Pizzuto Jr. was scheduled to be executed last year for killing two people in 1985 but asked for clemency due to his terminal cancer.
The state’s Commission of Pardons and Parole granted clemency in December and recommended to Republican Gov. Brad Little that Pizzuto's death sentence be commuted to life in prison.
But Little rejected that decision, allowing Pizzuto's execution to go forward.
Pizzuto's attorneys challenged Little's decision, and a district court in February ruled Little didn’t have the power to reject the commission's commutation decision. Little then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Attorneys and justices during the hour-long hearing focused on an apparently ambiguous section of Idaho law added by a 1986 constitutional amendment.
Specifically, the state is asking the court to reverse the district court's ruling and remand the case with instructions to issue a death warrant for Pizzuto.
Pizzuto's attorneys want the justices to uphold the district court's decision and leave the commission's commutation decision in place.
The court didn’t say when it might make a ruling.