Joseph Wood was executed by the State of Arizona for a double murder committed in 1989. According to court documents Joseph Wood would shoot and kill his estranged girlfriend and her father. Joseph Wood would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. Joseph Wood was executed by lethal injection on July 23, 2014 and it did not go well. It would take Joseph Wood nearly two hours to die after given the lethal injection concoction, After the earlier execution of Clayton Lockett in which he ended up dying from a heart attack the lethal injection process was under more scrutiny with many calling it cruel and unusual punishment
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On Wednesday the execution of an Arizona inmate took nearly two hours; the process usually takes just 10 minutes. Some witnesses describe the man, Joseph Rudolph Wood, as snorting and gasping for breath. State officials, however, said he lost consciousness within a few minutes and the noises sounded like snoring. More than an hour had passed when the Federal Public Defender’s Office filed an emergency motion to stop the execution because it qualified as cruel and unusual punishment, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t respond before Wood died.
Wood, convicted for a double murder in 1989, was executed with a combination of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone. Corrections departments have had an increasingly difficult time obtaining preferred drugs used for lethal injections because many companies have stopped selling to them, objecting to the use of the drugs in executions.
That left capital punishment states with two final options: they could mix legally available drugs themselves, creating their own ad hoc lethal injections, or they could pay compounding pharmacies to do it for them (compounding pharmacies combine or mix custom drugs, and face little government regulation for small-batch jobs). In effect, they wanted to make up new lethal injection cocktails,” wrote German Lopez and Max Fisher for Vox. “But without a way to do rigorous testing before using the drugs, the execution room effectively became the test lab; death row inmates were also lab rats.”
“[S]upposedly in the name of deterring capital punishment, drug companies are leaving states to experiment with riskier and less effective drug cocktails, the result of which is capital punishment plus some unintended suffering on the side,” wrote Allahpundit of Hot Air. “The strategy here by opponents, in other words, is to shape public opinion by making states choose between either canceling death sentences or facing political fallout from more botched executions caused by unproven drugs.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer released a statement saying she was “concerned” by how long the execution process took. “While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process,” Brewer said. “One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer.”
The public needs to know what happened here. What drugs are we using to kill people and what’s the big state secret, if there’s not a problem with those drugs?,” wrote Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic. “State officials need to immediately call a halt to all executions until we can be assured that we can kill smoothly and efficiently.”
Andrew Cohen of The Week said Wood’s death shouldn’t have been a surprise, due to several other recent botched executions. “Arizona didn’t just experiment on Wood. It experimented on him without ever subjecting its planned experiment to any sort of independent review,” Cohen wrote. “The state combined midazolam with hydromorphone and topped it off with a series of unsupported, unjustified, untested assurances that all would be okay.”
One of the other botched executions took place this year in Oklahoma, with the prisoner eventually dying of a heart attack 43 minutes after his injection. “The underlying legal question behind all of these incidents is whether or not execution by lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment — and many say that the evidence is mounting that, with these untried cocktails slowing down executions, it is,” wrote Annie-Rose Strasser of ThinkProgress. “Some advocates for the death penalty have even said it’s time to turn toward other methods of execution, including the electric chair, firing squads, and even the guillotine.”