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In Idaho, Other States, Volunteers Perform Lethal Injections

Eight times, a medical team in an Idaho prison tried to establish an intravenous line to deliver a lethal injection to condemned inmate Thomas Creech. Their attempts failed, giving Creech an unsettling reprieve. The incident last week raised sharp questions, such as: Who serves on the medical team used for executions by the Idaho Department of Correction? "They're all volunteers," Creech's legal team told NPR, citing Idaho's execution protocol. That may come as a surprise. Other states have similar arrangements — and in Idaho and elsewhere, it's also routine to protect the identities of people on an execution medical team, according to NPR. The people who carry out executions vary by state, from prison staff to volunteers. "It is difficult to land on a precise number of states that use volunteers for their executions because of the prevalence of secrecy statutes," said the Death Penalty Information Center, "which usually protect the identity and information of/about the execution team members."

Florida, which conducted six executions last year, uses an "execution team" composed of correctional staff and others to put inmates to death. Its lethal-injection policies call for a warden to select "personnel with sufficient training and experience to perform the technical procedures needed to carry out an execution by lethal injection," listing professions such as paramedics, EMTs, nurses and physicians. Texas executed eight people in 2023. Its execution policies designate a "drug team," who are not employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "All members of the drug team are paid for the services they provide," said Amanda Hernandez, the agency's director of communications. In Creech's case, each attempt at lethal injection was unsuccessful. The execution was called off and the death warrant for Creech was allowed to expire that night. "We are angered but not surprised" that the execution failed, Creech's lawyers at Federal Defender Services of Idaho wrote. "This is what happens when unknown individuals with unknown training are assigned to carry out an execution."


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