BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A U.S. appeals court panel on Friday refused to delay next week’s scheduled execution in Idaho of one of the nation’s longest-serving death row inmates. .

Thomas Creech He was sentenced to death in 1983 for killing another inmate, David Jensen, with a sock full of batteries. Creech, 73, had previously been convicted of four murders and was already serving a life sentence when he killed Jensen.

He is also a suspect in several other murders dating back half a century.

His attorneys had asked a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to delay Creech’s death by lethal injection, scheduled for Wednesday.

They said they needed more time to make the claim that, under the country’s changing standards of decency, his death sentence should be overturned because it was handed down by a judge, not a jury. Among people sentenced to death nationwide, only 2.1% were sentenced to death by a single judge, they said.

During oral arguments Thursday, all three justices expressed skepticism. They noted that while arguments about “evolving standards of decency” have been used to prohibit the execution of minors or people with severe developmental delays, Creech’s lawyers had presented little or no evidence that people in the United States disapproved of each. execution of inmates who were sentenced by judges instead of juries.

“We gave you the opportunity to tell us what evidence you have of an evolving rule and you have provided nothing,” Judge Jay Bybee told Jonah Horwitz, Creech’s attorney. “This feels like it’s a delay for the sake of delay and it’s a shot in the dark.”

The Idaho attorney general’s office opposed Creech’s request for a stay, arguing that Creech could have raised the issue a long time ago but waited until the last minute to try to prevent the execution: “This is a claim that was basically kept in Creech’s lawyer’s back pocket, waiting until an actual execution was scheduled,” said Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson.

In Friday’s ruling, the panel rejected the idea that any national movement away from executions of prisoners sentenced by judges is a new development. It might have been equally true in 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case known as Ring v. Arizona that juries, not judges, should impose the death penalty, as is the case today, the panel said.

Even then, “only a small minority of jurisdictions authorized judge-imposed death sentences,” the panel wrote. “It became clear, once Ring was decided, that the small number of executions of defendants sentenced to death by court ruling would decline in subsequent years as those defendants were executed, granted clemency, or died by natural causes, or when their States imposed broader restrictions on executions in general.”

In other words, someone was always going to be the subject of the final execution of a judge-imposed sentence, and Creech did not do enough to show that attitudes toward judge-imposed executions had changed markedly in recent years. That means this claim should have been raised on appeal a long time ago, and it is now too late, the panel concluded.

In recent weeks, Creech’s lawyers have filed three other challenges related to his execution. Two are before the U.S. District Court in Idaho, over the adequacy of his recent clemency hearing and over the state’s refusal to say where it obtained the drug he intends to use to kill him. The other is an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Originally from Ohio, Creech’s history as involved in or suspected of murders dates back half a century. In 1974, he was acquitted of the stabbing death of retiree Paul Shrader, 70, in Tucson, Arizona; Creech was a cook who lived at the motel where Shrader’s body was found.

He then moved to Portland, Oregon, where he worked as a maintenance worker or sexton at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The body of William Joseph Dean, 22, was found in the Creech home on August 7, 1974, and a Salem grocery store worker, Sandra Jane Ramsamooj, was shot to death that same day.

In November, Creech and his 17-year-old girlfriend were hitchhiking in Idaho when two traveling house painters picked them up. The couple, John Wayne Bradford, 40, and Edward Thomas Arnold, 34, were found shot to death and partially buried next to a road. Creech was convicted. His girlfriend testified against him.

During police interrogations, Creech made some implausible claims (claims his lawyers say he made under the influence of a so-called truth serum) that he had killed 42 people, some in satanic rituals and others through hitmen for motorcycle gangs in several state. Authorities could not corroborate most of his claims, but said they found two bodies based on information he provided and linked him to nine murders: two in Nevada, two in Oregon, two in Idaho and one each in Wyoming, Arizona. and California.

Initially, authorities did not believe one of the stories Creech told them. Creech claimed that while he was being treated at Oregon State Hospital following a suicide attempt, he obtained a weekend pass, traveled to Sacramento and killed someone, and then returned to the treatment center.

Based on that information, California police reanalyzed fingerprints found in murder victim Vivian Grant Robinson’s home, and they matched Creech. They also realized that she had called the treatment center from her home to say that she would be returning a day late. Creech was convicted in that case in 1980.

During Creech’s clemency hearing last month, the state offered new information, without supporting evidence, that Creech had committed another murder in California, that of Daniel Walker in San Bernardino County in 1974. Prosecutors there say They have no intention of pressing charges, noting that Creech’s upcoming execution.

Creech was initially sentenced to death following his conviction in Idaho in 1975, but after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that automatic death sentences were unconstitutional, it was converted to a life sentence. After killing Jensen, he was again sentenced to death.

By Sam