Idaho set to execute Thomas Eugene Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the US

BOISE, Idaho– The hour of Thomas Eugene Creech’s death has been set and is fast approaching.

On Wednesday morning, prison officials in Idaho will ask the 73-year-old if he would like a mild sedative to help him calm down before he is executed at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise. They will then take him to the execution chamber at 10 a.m. local time and strap him to a padded medical table.

Defense attorneys and the warden will check for any last-minute court orders that could halt the execution of Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the U.S.

Barring legal residency, volunteers with medical training will insert a catheter into one of Creech’s veins. He is given the opportunity to say his last words, and a spiritual advisor can pray with him. Then the state will inject a drug intended to kill the man convicted of five murders in three states and suspected in several other states.

Creech has been imprisoned since 1974 and was originally sentenced to death for the shooting deaths of John Wayne Bradford and Edward Thomas Arnold. However, that sentence was commuted to life in prison after the state’s criminal law was found unconstitutional.

He was then sentenced to death in 1983 for the murder of David Dale Jensen, who was 22, disabled and serving a prison sentence for car theft when Creech beat him to death at the Idaho State Penitentiary on May 13, 1981.

Jensen’s family members described him as a gentle soul who loved hunting and being outdoors during Creech’s clemency hearing last month. Jensen’s daughter was just four years old when he died, and she talked about how painful it was to grow up without a father, piecing together everything she knows about her father from the descriptions and memories of others.

In court documents filed late last week, Idaho officials said Creech’s spiritual adviser would be allowed to stand next to Creech with a hand on his shoulder during the execution. The bishop will also be able to pray silently for Creech, but he will not be allowed to hold his hand or make any noise once the administration of the lethal injection begins, the court document said. Creech will also be allowed to wear a crucifix, according to the document, and his wife will sit in the witness room where he can make eye contact with her.

Creech’s supporters have pushed for his sentence to be commuted to life without parole. They say he is a deeply changed man who has become a kind and supportive force within the cellblock of the Idaho Maximum Security Institution where he lives. Several years ago he married the mother of a correctional officer, and former prison staffers said he was known for writing poetry and regularly expressing gratitude for the work done by correctional officers.

During his clemency hearing, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jill Longhorst did not dispute that Creech can be polite and friendly to correctional officers. But she said he’s a psychopath; a man who can be charming and sympathetic, but who lacks remorse and empathy for others.

Creech’s attorneys filed a series of late appeals in hopes of preventing his execution or commuting his sentence to life in prison without parole. They include claims that his clemency hearing was unfair, that it was unconstitutional to kill him because he was convicted by a judge rather than a jury, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

But judges in four courts who have reviewed the petitions so far have found no reason for leniency. Creech’s last chance hinges on a petition filed late Monday night with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay of execution so the high court can weigh Creech’s claim that prosecutors lied during his clemency hearing, affecting his rights due process have been violated.

In addition to the Idaho murders, Creech was convicted of the 1974 murders of both William Joseph Dean in Oregon and Vivian Grant Robinson in California. He was also charged with the murder of Sandra Jane Ramsamooj that year in Oregon, but the charges were later dropped. of his other murder convictions.

In 1973, Creech was tried for the murder of 70-year-old Paul Schrader in Tucson, Arizona, but was acquitted of the crime. Authorities still believe he is responsible for Schrader’s death, and say Creech provided information that led them to the bodies of two people near Las Vegas and one person near Baggs, Wyoming.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Creech’s execution will be the second in the U.S. this year. The first occurred last month in Alabama, when Kenneth Eugene Smith became the first death row inmate to be executed with nitrogen gas. Alabama officials said the method would be humane and predicted death would occur within a few minutes, but Smith appeared to remain conscious for several minutes and appeared to tremble and writhe in pain for at least two minutes.

Another execution is also scheduled for Wednesday in Texas: Ivan Cantu was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of his cousin, James Mosqueda, and his cousin’s girlfriend, Amy Kitchen. Cantu has maintained his innocence.

The death penalty in Idaho was established in 1864, about 26 years before the territory became a state. Since that time, 29 executions have been carried out, including the last hanging in 1957, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Executions became rare in the following decades. Although dozens of people have been sentenced to death since the 1970s, Creech will be only the fourth to be executed by the state since 1957, all by lethal injection.

Keith Eugene Wells, 31, was executed in 1994 for the murders of John Justad and Brandi Rains, committed just four years earlier in Boise; he had given up his profession and demanded to be put to death. Paul Ezra Rhoades was executed in 2011 for the 1987 murders of Stacy Dawn Baldwin and Susan Michelbacher in eastern Idaho. Rhoades was also convicted of the murder of Nolan Haddon that year, and authorities said they suspected him in other deaths as well. Richard Albert Leavitt was executed in 2012 for the 1984 murder of Danette Jean Elg in eastern Idaho.

After Creech’s execution, only seven people will remain on Idaho’s death row. A handful of the people sentenced to death in the state over the past fifty years have died of natural causes, and at least two have been acquitted of those crimes. Many others had their sentences reduced on appeal.

Earlier this year, Idaho lawmakers considered adding the death penalty as a possible punishment for people convicted of indecent behavior with a child, but the legislation did not pass the House of Representatives.