By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
In a request for clemency, attorneys for a man on Idaho’s death row say his original sentencing judge now believes he shouldn’t be executed.
Thomas Creech, 73, has been on death row since 1983 for the beating death of fellow inmate David Jensen in 1981. A judge signed his death warrant on Thursday and set his execution date for Nov. 8.
The petition for clemency filed Friday goes through the Idaho Board of Pardons and Parole, which could choose whether or not to grant him a hearing.
Through a press release last week, IDOC confirmed it does have the chemicals needed to execute Creech by lethal injection. The state of Idaho does not require IDOC to disclose where the chemicals being used in an execution are obtained.
Judge Robert Newhouse repeatedly sentenced Creech to death for Jensen’s killing, even after appeals. But, in the petition for a clemency hearing, Newhouse has changed his stance on the case.
Newhouse said that no “purpose would be served by executing [him] now” after he “has spent more than forty years on death row with the threat of execution hanging over him,” according to a copy of the petition.
Newhouse now believes that a sentence of life in prison without parole would be an adequate punishment.
Because “there’s no risk in commuting Mr. Creech’s death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” executing Mr. Creech would, in Judge Newhouse’s opinion, “just be an act of vengeance,” according to the petition.
Creech’s attorneys argue that he is a changed man.
“Forty-two years ago, Tom Creech committed an unforgivably terrible act and killed David Jensen. But the Tom Creech of 2023 is not the Tom Creech of 1981. Today’s Tom is a profoundly remorseful seventy-three-year-old man with many years of spotless behavior who spends his time improving the lives of prison staff with unprecedented demonstrations of respect and compassion.”
Former prison staff who worked with Creech also vouched for the change in Creech’s behavior.
A former IDOC correctional officer, Ronald Gus, said when his wife died in 2012, Creech wrote him a condolence letter in the form of a poem, despite the fact that Gus retired in 2005 and hadn’t seen him in years.
Former Director of Nursing and Health Services Administrator at IMSI Kathy Niecko wrote that Creech got a “gang leader” to “stop mistreating” one of her employees and even persuaded the other inmate to apologize, according to the petition.
“Ms. Niecko goes so far as to say that ‘if there had ever been a riot at the prison, Tom’s cell would be the first one I would run to,’ for it ‘would have been the safest place for [her] to be,’” according to the petition.
Creech’s attorneys argue that prison staff who work with him daily say he is a model inmate with ideal behavior. They also pointed to other states that have seen botched lethal injection executions, traumatizing prison staff.
His attorneys also argued that Creech is profoundly remorseful for Jensen’s killing, something that has been documented for years, not just in the new request for a clemency hearing.
The Board of Pardons and Parole is not required to grant Creech a clemency hearing. If it were to grant a clemency hearing, and ultimately support changing his sentence, the governor holds the authority to dismiss the Board’s recommendation.