Joseph Wood was executed by Arizona on Wednesday after the Supreme Court declined to stay the execution.
Update – 7:39 p.m.:
Arizona executed Joseph R. Wood on Wednesday afternoon, but the execution lasted for nearly two hours as Wood struggled to breathe, according to his attorneys.
During his execution, Wood’s attorneys filed a request to halt the lethal injection because he was still awake more than an hour after the process began. Wood was “gasping and snorting for more than an hour,” they wrote in their filing.
The execution continued and Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. (local time), the office of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said. This was nearly two hours after the execution began at 1:52 p.m.
Wood was the third inmate executed in Arizona since last October and the first put to death using a combination of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone.
“The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona,” Dale Baich, an attorney for Wood, said in a statement. “It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes.”
Baich said he and others would continue seeking information about the drugs used.
“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution,” Baich said. “The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”
Wood was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. He was killed by lethal injection at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, Ariz.
His case had been briefly stayed by an appeals court, but the Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated that stay and on Wednesday denied a stay request. The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday also briefly stayed the execution before saying that it could proceed.
Wood’s attorneys had argued earlier that the execution should be held until he could learn more about the drugs that would be used. Arizona planned to use a two-drug combination – midazolam and hydromorphone — that had only been used once before in an execution. (That episode, a lethal injection in Ohio, lasted for nearly 25 minutes and also involved the inmate snorting and gasping.)
He was the first person executed this year in the state. Arizona last carried out an execution in October 2013, putting two inmates to death using two two different types of lethal injections: Edward Schad was put to death with an injection of one drug (pentobarbital) on Oct. 9, while Robert Jones was put to death with a three-drug mix (including midazolam hydrochloride) two weeks later.
The state changed its lethal injection protocols earlier this year. Tom Horne’s office announced that it would allow the use of midazolam and hydromorphone to carry out the executions. The change in Arizona’s lethal injection protocols occurred because the state is one of many scrambling to find the drugs needed for lethal injections, which has caused states to effectively experiment with different combinations and drug protocols.
Update – 7:01 p.m.:
Joseph Wood died nearly two hours after the execution began, the Associated Press is reporting.
Update – 6:46 p.m.:
The execution is underway in Arizona, but lawyers for Wood have filed an emergency stay asking that the execution be halted.
According to the filing, he was declared sedated shortly before 2 p.m. (local time), but shortly after 2 p.m. began to breathe. His attorneys say Wood “has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour,” adding that he remains alive an hour after the execution began.
Here’s the entire filing:
Emergency Motion for Stay of Execution
The Arizona Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it had stayed the execution of Joseph R. Wood shortly before he was set to die by lethal injection, but it dissolved the stay a short time later.
Wood was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. His execution was set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. (local time) at the state prison in Florence, Ariz.
Attorneys for Wood had argued that he needed more information about his looming execution, including details about the drugs that would be used as well as the execution team. A panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had agreed over the weekend and the full court upheld the decision on Monday, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the stay and denied a stay request on Tuesday evening.
The Supreme Court also denied a stay of execution on Wednesday. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy referred the stay request to the entire court and it was denied without explanation.
Shortly before the scheduled execution, the state Supreme Court said it had stayed the execution so it could consider his petition. A short time later, the court announced that it had dissolved the earlier stay and was denying any motions asking for the execution to be stayed.
An attorney for Wood had said that he hoped the stay would give the court time to consider the issues Wood had raised, particularly the combination of drugs that will be utilized in the execution.
Issues involving the drugs that will be used and the medical personnel who will carry out the execution have come into play already in two different executions this year.
The two-drug combination that Arizona said it will now use for executions — utilizing medazolam and hydromorphone — was first used in a January execution in Ohio that saw an inmate to choke, gasp and take nearly 25 minutes to die. Meanwhile, after an inmate grimaced and writhed during a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma, an independent autopsy found that the execution team failed to place the IV properly.
Arizona has argued that it has provided all of the necessary information regarding its execution protocols.
The execution warrant for Wood is good for 24 hours. If Wood is executed, he would be the first person put to death by the state since October 2013.
Here is the order dissolving the stay:
Arizona Supreme Court – Wood stay ended
And here is the earlier stay:
Arizona Supreme Court – Wood