herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

US killer took two hours to die from injection

Joseph Wood. Photo: Reuters
Joseph Wood. Photo: Reuters

A condemned murderer took nearly two hours to die and gasped for about 90 minutes during an execution that quickly rekindled the debate on capital punishment in the US.

The execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood (55) took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it was ongoing. The Arizona Supreme Court also called an impromptu hearing on the matter and learned of his death during the discussions.

"He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour," Wood's lawyers wrote in a legal filing demanding that the courts stop it. "He is still alive."

It is the third prolonged execution this year in the US, including one in Ohio in which an inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly a half-hour.

An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Gov. Jan Brewer said later that she's ordering a full review of the state's execution process, saying she's concerned by how long it took for the administered drug protocol to kill Wood.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said Wood was pronounced dead at 3.49pm, one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

A reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins.

Gasps

He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and a half. During the gasps, his jaw dropped and his chest expanded and contracted.

An administrator checked on Wood a half dozen times. His breathing slowed as a deacon said a prayer while holding a rosary. Wood finally stopped breathing and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

"Throughout this execution, I conferred and collaborated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress," said state Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Defence lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

Family members of Wood's victims in a double 1989 murder said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

"This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let's worry about the drugs," said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of victim Debbie Dietz. "Why didn't they give him a bullet?"

Wood was convicted of fatally shooting Ms Dietz and her father Gene at their auto repair shop in Tucson.

hnews@herald.ie

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