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Interview: Idaho prisoner Thomas Creech ‘fully expected to die’ at failed execution

Thomas Creech, left, is Idaho’s longest-service death row prisoner, including after a failed execution by lethal injection in February. He married his wife, LeAnn Creech, in 1998 while incarcerated. | Federal Defender Services of Idaho
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Idaho’s failed effort earlier this year to execute a prisoner for the first time in 12 years, stunning top officials, has again paralyzed the state’s ability to carry out the death penalty and left Thomas Creech, death row’s longest-tenured member, bracing for what may come next.
Creech, 73, incarcerated for nearly 50 years for multiple murders, was strapped to a bed in the Idaho Department of Correction’s execution chamber at the maximum security prison in February. There, for about an hour, the prison system’s clandestine three-member execution team searched for a proper vein, poking him with needles attached to lethal chemicals ready to enter Creech’s body but to no avail, and state prison leadership called off his execution.
Creech still lives and breathes today.
In the 3 1/2 months since Idaho’s first-ever unsuccessful lethal injection, Creech, too, remains rattled by the unprecedented experience, which had him questioning reality, he said this week in a phone interview with the Idaho Statesman.
“I laid on that table and fully expected to die that day. And actually, to be honest with you, I still feel like I’m dead and this is just the afterlife,” Creech said from the prison south of Boise. “They laid me on the table, putting needles in my arm, and the worst of everything was I looked at my wife, I seen her sitting there, total devastation and fear in her beautiful face. And I never want to see that again.”
That uncertainty of what may follow has taken a toll on his psyche, he said, and also raised constitutional rights questions over whether the incident qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. On the other side, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, who attended Creech’s scheduled execution, at the time called the situation a miscarriage of the state’s legal due process.
“Justice has now been delayed again,” he said in a statement. “Today is a sad day for the families of his victims and a continuation of the pain they have endured for almost five decades.”
But armed with fresh legal arguments off the latest and unexpected development in Creech’s lengthy history, his attorneys have filed new court cases and refiled appeals to prevent another attempt on their client’s life.
State officials have gone quiet since while the prison system works to review and develop updated execution procedures to prevent a repeat occurrence while retaining lethal injection as its preferred method. Meanwhile, they’ve also restocked with another batch of lethal injection drugs, having now spent $150,000 on six doses of the deadly chemicals — enough for two executions under current protocols.
No one has been willing to say yet whether the state still has Creech in their sights among Idaho’s nine-member death row.
CREECH: ‘I’M NOT TRYING TO GET A FREE PASS’
Creech, by definition a serial killer under FBI standards, has been convicted of killing five people, including three in Idaho. His most recent murder took place when he bludgeoned to death a partially disabled fellow prisoner with a makeshift weapon — a tube sock filled with batteries — in May 1981.
During a formal review in January to consider dropping Creech’s sentence to life in prison, county prosecutors presented images of his latest victim in the brutal prison beating, with his blood splattered on the walls and floor of his cell. But Creech’s case was buttressed by dozens of supporters, several of them former state corrections workers, including two who showed up to offer testimony. So did a current IDOC guard.
Creech has turned his life around in prison, his friends and advocates have said. In 1996, Creech met his wife, LeAnn Creech, after her son, a prison guard at at the time, introduced them. They wed two years later.
“I’ve been with him for nearly 28 years, and I can tell you that he’s not the same person he was when he was young,” LeAnn Creech told the Statesman by email. “He is kind and loving and caring. There are so many people that know him and know that he’s the person today that he was always meant to be.”
After the state’s parole board deadlocked in their vote on whether to grant Creech clemency, he was returned to death row and soon scheduled to die.

Idaho’s death row at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise houses the state’s eight male prisoners sentenced to death, including its longest-serving member, Thomas Creech. | Idaho Department of Correction
But Creech also at points, including under oath, has claimed to have killed as many as 42 people, including through various murder admissions and signed confessions over the years. The state in its objections to him receiving a reduced sentence argued that he got away with multiple murders across the Western U.S.
Creech disputed the inflated tally and told the Statesman the actual number is in the single digits, though he was still vague on the real total. His mind is “kind of jumbled,” five decades later and off the recent execution attempt, Creech said.
He lied about the dozens of murders on the stand at his trial for a November 1974 double-homicide in Valley County, Creech said, at the urging of his then-attorney in an attempt at publicity. But he acknowledged by phone that he did shoot to death the two men, Edward T. Arnold, 34, and John W. Bradford, in that incident.
“I’m not trying to get a free pass or anything,” Creech said. “I’m not going to act like I’m a saint or angel of any kind. I’ve done some bad things, hurt people, hurt my family. I’m very remorseful, and not that person I was 30 years ago.”

Idaho death row prisoner Thomas Creech, 73, center, seated with attorney Chris Sanchez, left, and investigator Christine Hanley from the Federal Defender Services of Idaho, at his commutation hearing in January. | Idaho Department of Correction Provided
IDAHO COULD IMPLEMENT FIRING SQUAD
Idaho, in its years-long, desperate search for lethal injection drugs resorted last year to passing a new law that made a firing squad the state’s backup execution method. Labrador helped co-author the bill, which the Legislature overwhelmingly passed and it was signed by Gov. Brad Little.
Lethal injection drugs, which have become harder to come by and more expensive, have suddenly become more available to the state prison system, though the state refuses to say where they obtained them. IDOC has so far waited on overhauling its execution chamber to provide for the firing squad.
Creech told The New York Times last week that he would probably prefer the firing squad over lethal injection, if faced with a do-over to execute him. Whether another death warrant will be served to him for now is unknown, despite his and and his attorneys’ ongoing objections
“If they execute me tomorrow,” Creech said, “they are executing somebody that doesn’t deserve it. Because I’m a completely different person.”
The post Interview: Idaho prisoner Thomas Creech ‘fully expected to die’ at failed execution appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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