Death by lethal injection as a sentence has become ever more controversial since the favored drug was made unavailable for that purpose, but yesterday’s agonizing two-hour long execution of Joseph Wood raises the questions yet again. Wood was convicted for the 1989 murders of Debra Dietz and her father Eugene Dietz and executed yesterday after the Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution earlier this month.
Joseph Wood isn’t the first convict to suffer after states began to change their drug protocol for lethal injections. According to AZ Central, prisoners sentenced to death by lethal injection have suffered similar fates in three states.
In fact, it’s because of these botched executions that a lawyer for Wood filed for a stay of execution, asking for information about the drugs that would be used and for an assurance that they’d be effective and not cause excessive suffering. While conflicting rulings were given on whether Joseph Wood had the right to that information, the Supreme Court settled it, allowing the state to carry out the execution.
Those who were present for Wood’s execution say that it took two hours, and Wood struggled for breath for an hour and forty minutes of that time.
However, CNN reports that on the question of whether Wood suffered, accounts differ.
Attorney Dale Baich called the event an ‘entirely preventable horror’ and said he would renew efforts to find out how the state of Arizona selected the particular drug cocktail it used on Wood.
Meanwhile, Arizona governor Jan Brewer says that it’s clear Wood wasn’t suffering:
“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims — and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”
A spokesperson for the Arizona Corrections Department backed this up, saying that Wood was in deep sedation during the time he appeared to struggle.
Despite this public position, Brewer says the state of Arizona will review the drug cocktail to be used in future executions. It may be another step of change toward the end of the death penalty for the U.S. after California already ruled the process unconstitutional in that state last week.
For Joseph Wood, however, the entire saga and controversy, which include a judge stating yesterday that the convict should have to stand before a firing squad or face a guillotine instead, has come to an end.