Idaho’s longest-serving death row inmate is pleading for another clemency hearing after the previous one ended in a tie vote – yet the state governor has already declared he has “zero intention of taking any action that would halt or delay” his execution.
Thomas Eugene Creech, 73, was sentenced to death over four decades ago after he was convicted of killing fellow prison inmate, 23-year-old David Dale Jensen, by beating him to death with a sock filled with batteries and stomping on his face and neck, the Ada County Prosecutor’s office said in a news release.
Creech, who was already serving four life sentences at the time, pleaded guilty to murdering Jensen.
The prosecutor’s office branded Mr Creech as a “serial killer”, who has had five murder convictions, one in California, one in Oregon and three in Idaho. Prosecutors also suspect him in the killing of an additional six victims and he has allegedly admitted to killing at least 40 people.
A state parole board voted 3-3 last month on a request sent by Creech to have his sentence changed to life without parole after one of its members recused himself from the case. Now, Creech is asking for a new hearing after it ended in a tie, according to The Associated Press.
In Idaho, a majority of the board must vote in favour of clemency in order for the recommendation to be sent to the governor, yet the state rules say that the governor can also overrule these recommendations.
“As governor, I have zero intention of taking any action that would halt or delay Creech’s execution,” he said.
“His lawful and just sentence must be carried out as ordered by the court. Justice has been delayed long enough.”
Creech’s attorneys have argued that having one board member absent was unfair, as an inmate would have had to convince a majority to get a recommendation, but instead, he had to try and convince two-thirds, the outlet said.
One member should have stepped aside, or another one should have been appointed to fill the seventh place, they said.
Last month, the prosecutor’s office said that Creech is also suspected in the 1974 murder of Daniel A Walker in California. Creech has not been charged in connection to the case.
Deborah A. Czuba, supervising attorney for the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defender Services of Idaho which represents Creech, said that the state has not provided evidence for declaring Creech guilty of Walker’s killing – and that the claim led to his clemency being denied.
“The commision was told that a vote for clemency would mean Mr Creech got away with another murder,” she said.
“The inflammatory allegation was patently false. The investigation into Mr Walker’s murder is still open. But the damage was done. In the commission’s eyes, Mr Creech was on the hook for a new crime.”
For years, Creech has stunned prosecutors and judges for years due to the severity of his crimes and confessions.
In 1993, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in an opinion that Creech’s case “could not be more chilling”.
His clemency hearing also saw him being depicted as a sociopath with no regard for human life by Ada County deputy prosecutor Jill Longhurst, according to The Associated Press.
However, his defence team has tried to show that Creech is a changed man, and the string of killings that have been connected to the death row inmate has been blown out of proportion.
The Federal Defender Services of Idaho, which is representing Creech, said last month that “statements that Mr Creech made to law enforcement officials decades ago under unclear circumstances and during a time period in which police officers from around the country were spoon-feeding Mr Creech information to try to clear cases based on the fantasy that he committed 50 murders,” according to NBC.
A video created to support his clemency also added Creech was “remorseful and sorry” for the crimes he committed, and if he could “change it all” he would.
The video also included comments from a mental health clinician from the prison saying he was a “model inmate” and even an endorsement from the judge who sentenced him to death, saying that after 40 years on death row, executing him now would “just be an act of vengeance”.
“Seeking the death penalty in a capital case is not a decision that is taken lightly by any prosecutor’s office,” the prosecutor’s office wrote in their January news release.
“The decision can be made only after a careful examination of the statutory factors as applied to the facts and circumstances. The facts and circumstances in Mr Creech’s case warrant the death penalty to this day.”
An execution date for Creech has been scheduled for 28 February 2024, Idaho News 6 said.