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Idaho Forced to Call Off Inmate’s Execution After Failed Drug Injection

Idaho Department of Corrections
Idaho Department of Corrections

Idaho called off the Wednesday morning execution of five-time murderer Thomas Eugene Creech—who has spent more than four decades on death row—after a medical team was unable to establish an IV line to inject him with a fatal drug.

The failed attempt means Creech’s death warrant has expired, and he’s been returned to his cell, said Josh Tewalt, director of the Idaho Department of Corrections.

Tewalt said his medical team tried to establish an IV a total of eight times, using “multiple limbs and appendages,” but all of their attempts failed.

“We, from the very beginning, try to be very candid and upfront that this isn’t a do it at any cost process,” he said.

It’s just the latest in a string of failed drug injections in recent years, which have led some states to explore new execution methods, including nitrogen gas.

Inmate Writhes for Two Minutes as Alabama Kills Him With Nitrogen Gas

Idaho passed a law last year that allows for death by firing squad when a lethal injection can’t be administered, but Tewalt said his agency does not have the facilities to carry out an execution in that manner.

“This is a heavily regulated process,” he added. “That requires it be treated with with a deference to being mindful of not violating the Eighth Amendment or creating any cruel and unusual punishment type claims.”

After finding out he wouldn’t be executed, media witnesses said Creech waved to his loved ones who were watching from a witness room, closed his eyes, and shook his head. They said the execution was finally called off 47 minutes after Creech was brought into the execution chamber.

Reporters also noted that Creech mumbled throughout the failed execution, but only spoke loud enough to be heard once, when he said his legs hurt. Two reporters, Brenda Rodriguez of KTVB and Scott McIntosh of the Idaho Statesman, said he appeared to mouth “I’m sorry” to his loved ones.

Creech, 73, has admitted to carrying out a string of murders in the early 1970s, with authorities linking him to 11 killings in total—though Creech himself has claimed he slaughtered as many as 50 people before he was busted for shooting dead two men who picked him up as he hitchhiked.

That first arrest came in 1974, and Creech has remained in custody in Idaho ever since. He was sentenced to death for that double slaying, but had his sentence changed to life in prison after the state’s sentencing law was found unconstitutional.

Things had changed by 1983, however, and Creech landed himself back on death row after he was convicted of brutally beating and killing his fellow inmate David Dale Jensen—a disabled 22-year-old serving time for a car theft.

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While locked up, Creech provided info to police that led them to the bodies of Gordon Lee Stanton and Charles Thomas Miller near Las Vegas, and to the body of Rick Stewart McKenzie, 22, in Wyoming—three slayings he was found guilty of. He also admitted to and was convicted of killing Vivian Grant Robinson at her home in Sacramento, California, and was tried in the murder of 70-year-old Paul Schrader in Arizona, but was acquitted.

Creech remains one of the country’s longest-serving inmates on death row, and his lawyers and supporters pleaded for clemency up until Wednesday morning. A petition to the Supreme Court on Monday asked them to stay the execution on claims Creech’s due process rights were violated when prosecutors allegedly lied during his clemency hearing, but the high court sided with those who’d already ruled below it—determining Wednesday morning the claims weren’t enough to have Creech spared.

In that same clemency hearing, attorneys for Creech insisted that he’s a deeply changed man who’d become a kind and supportive inmate inside the Idaho Maximum Security Institution cell block where he lived. They asked that he be sentenced to remain there for the rest of his life instead.

While behind bars, Creech married the mother of a correctional officer, and his old prison guards noted that he’d taken up writing poetry and was cordial with correctional officers.

The pleas for mercy didn’t sway a judge to pull Creech’s death sentence, however, even as Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jill Longhorst acknowledged that Creech had grown to be pleasant with those who watched over him in prison. That, Longhorst said, was what made Creech so dangerous—he had the ability to appear charming, but, deep down, was a murderous “psychopath.”

The judge did show a slimmer of leniency for Creech, however, determining his wife could appear at the execution in a seat directly in front of where he was tied down, in a position where he can make eye contact with her. The judge also permitted an Episcopal bishop to silently pray during the execution over Creech, who was also permitted to wear a crucifix.

In what he believed would be his final meal on Tuesday night, he chose to have fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, rolls, and butter pecan ice cream, the state prison system said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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