Pizzuto v. Blades

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 09-09-2013
  • Case #: 12-99002
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Fisher and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Idaho Supreme Court’s application of Idaho Code § 19-2515A is neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of the clearly established federal law in Atkins v. Virginia, which prohibits the execution of individuals with mental retardation.

Defendant Pizzuto appealed the denial of a 28 USC § 2254 habeas corpus petition, challenging his convictions and death sentence based on Atkins v. Virginia, 536 US 304 (2002), which prohibits the execution of persons with mental retardation. Pizzuto first argued that the Idaho Supreme Court unreasonably applied the Atkins rule when it failed to consider statistical adjustments to his IQ score, but the Ninth Circuit disagreed, observing that the clearly established law of Atkins did not require a particular form of calculation. Rejecting Pizzuto’s contention that the Idaho Supreme Court’s failure to consider statistical adjustments, along with a rigid 70-point IQ cutoff, did not adequately protect the Atkins class, the panel concluded that the Idaho Supreme Court’s definition was reasonable, conforming to both clinical definitions and other state statutes cited in Atkins. Pizzuto next argued that, because the trial court denied his motion for an evidentiary hearing, the Idaho Supreme Court’s fact determinations were unsupported by substantial evidence in the state record. The panel, however, noted that Pizzuto accepted the risk that the trial court could rule against him, when he alternatively filed a motion for summary judgment, which effectively argued that the facts in the record were sufficient to show that he was mentally retarded as a matter of law. The panel also rejected Pizzuto’s other challenges against the state’s fact-finding process as a matter of law and concluded that, in light of the record before it, the Idaho Supreme Court’s fact determinations were reasonable. For these reasons, the panel held that the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision was neither an unreasonable application of the law nor an unreasonable determination of the facts. AFFIRMED.

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