Executed Arizona inmate was given 15 doses of lethal drug combo

United States -

Arizona has joined the list of states where death row inmates are demanding to know more details about the drugs that will be used to execute them.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

At 3:49pm MT on July 23, Arizona's attorney general issued a statement saying Wood had died, about 2 hours after his execution began. Lawyers for Wood had filed an emergency request to stay his execution, saying that an hour after the execution began, Wood was still alive and "gasping and snorting."

"Instead of the one dose as required under the protocol, [the Arizona Dept. of Corrections] injected 15 separate doses of the drug combination, resulting in the most prolonged execution in recent memory." Dale Baich, Joseph Wood's lawyer

Arizona's Dept. of Corrections said Aug. 1 that after an initial dose of 50mg of the lethal drugs, the director of the agency approved 14 more doses over the next 90 minutes, or 700mg more of each drug. The agency said that the doses "comply with the department's mandate."

The U.S. Supreme Court on July 22 sided with Arizona in dismissing an execution stay previously issued by a lower court. Lawyers for inmate Joseph R. Wood argued their client had a First Amendment right to details about the lethal drug the state would use. Wood's execution was set to go on as planned July 23.

"Wood has raised serious questions on the merits as to the positive role that access to lethal injection drug information and executioner qualifications will have in the public debate on methods of execution." Appeals court panel

The shortage of lethal drugs has led states to seek controversial alternatives, including untried drug combinations and drugs from compounding pharmacies. Wood was sentenced to death for fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and her father.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she was "concerned" that it took Wood so long to die and called for a review of his execution. She said Wood didn't suffer "in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims."

"Media reports … reached the premature and erroneous conclusion that this execution was 'botched'. This is pure conjecture because there is no medical or forensic evidence to date that supports that conclusion." Arizona Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections is gathering evidence to do a full investigation on Wood's execution. They say the evidence collected so far indicates Wood was "comatose and never in pain" during the two hours before his death.

"It's time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure. Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are coming from." Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project

Stubbs called for Arizona and other lethal injection states to halt future executions until "they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended."

Lethal injection has come under heightened scrutiny after recent executions saw one inmate in Ohio take 26 minutes to die (of the same drug combination used on Wood -- midazolam and hydromorphone), and another inmate in Oklahoma died of a heart attack 30 minutes after a botched injection.

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