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Idaho Department of Correction unable to move forward with scheduled execution of Thomas Creech

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Idaho Department of Correction unable to move forward with scheduled execution of Thomas Creech

Feb 28, 2024 | 2:34 pm ET
By Clark Corbin
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Idaho Department of Correction unable to move forward with scheduled execution of Thomas Creech
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Thomas Creech has been on death row since 1983 for the beating death of fellow inmate David Jensen in 1981. (Courtesy of Christine Hanley/ Federal Defender Services of Idaho)

Idaho Department of Correction officials couldn’t carry out the scheduled execution of convicted murderer Thomas Creech on Wednesday morning, a department spokeswoman confirmed.

Creech’s execution was scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution’s F-block south of Boise. Shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, correction officials released a written statement announcing they were unable to establish an IV line to administer lethal injection chemicals. 

“At approximately 11 a.m. Director (Josh) Tewalt, after consulting with the medical team leader, determined that the medical team could not establish an IV line, rendering the execution unable to proceed,” Idaho Department of Correction public information officer Sanda Kuzeta-Cerimagic wrote in a written statement. “Mr. Creech will be returned to his cell and witnesses will be escorted out of the facility. As a result, the death warrant will expire. The State will consider next steps.” 

Creech is one of eight current inmates in Idaho who have been sentenced to death. Creech was given a death sentence after being convicted of killing a fellow inmate in Ada County in 1981, according to the Idaho Department of Correction and Gov. Brad Little. According to Little’s office, Creech was also convicted of killing four other people.

In a statement Wednesday, Creech’s legal team expressed anger at what they referred to as a botched execution. 

“We are angered but not surprised that the State of Idaho botched the execution of Thomas Creech today,” Creech’s team at Federal Defender Services of Idaho wrote in a written statement. “This is what happens when unknown individuals with unknown training are assigned to carry out an execution. This morning, they tried and failed 10 times to access Tom’s veins in both of his arms and both legs so they could inject him with the state’s mysteriously acquired pentobarbital. This is precisely the kind of mishap we warned the State and the Courts could happen when attempting to execute one of the country’s oldest death-row inmates in circumstances completely shielded in secrecy despite a well-known history of getting drugs from shady sources.”

In a statement, Little said correction officials were “well prepared” for several situations that can happen during a lethal injection execution.

“The team of professionals at IDOC was prepared for the possibility that medical professionals would not be able to access the inmate’s veins, a circumstance that has occurred in execution procedures elsewhere in the country,” the governor said in the statement. “The competent and qualified medical professionals present and IDOC officials were cautious and did the right thing in not moving forward with the execution. My office will remain in close communication with IDOC about next steps.”

Creech’s execution would have been the first in the state of Idaho since Idaho Department of Correction officials executed Richard Leavitt in June 2012

Lethal injection in Idaho

For years, Idaho Department of Correction officials said they were unable to obtain the chemicals necessary to carry out a lethal injection. 

During the 2023 session, the Idaho Legislature passed House Bill 186, which adds the firing squad as an alternative method of execution if lethal injection is unavailable. However, the secure facility necessary to carry out an execution by firing squad has not yet been completed. Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray told the Idaho Capital Sun in November the firing squad facility was still in the design phase and there was not yet a timetable for its completion. 

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Then, after struggling to obtain lethal injection chemicals for years, Tewalt confirmed to the Idaho Capital Sun in November that the state had obtained the chemicals necessary to carry out a lethal injection. Tewalt declined to specify which specific chemicals state officials obtained. Furthermore, state laws passed by the Idaho Legislature provide confidentiality to the manufacturers, suppliers or providers of lethal injection chemicals. 

According to the Idaho Department of Correction, officials were moving forward with the planned execution in the moments leading up to 10 a.m. Wednesday. According to an updated timeline published online by correction officials, witnesses were moved to the execution viewing chambers at 10 a.m.

On Tuesday evening, Creech ate what correction officials described at the time as his last meal – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, rolls and ice cream. According to correction officials, Creech visited with his wife Tuesday evening and met with his religious adviser for an hour early Wednesday before the planned execution. 

This is not the first time the state of Idaho has scheduled an execution and then been unable to carry it out. State officials scheduled and then canceled the planned execution for a different inmate, Gerald Pizzutto Jr., several times last year when state officials were previously unable to obtain lethal injection chemicals, Idaho Reports reported. However, Pizzutto’s planned executions were called off before the morning they were scheduled to be carried out, making Creech’s situation Wednesday more unusual.