Arizona Inmate Dies After Two Hours Of Execution

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An Arizona inmate struggled to breathe for nearly two hours on Wednesday during his prolonged execution by lethal injection, an ordeal that was so painful to observe that it revived demands to reconsider a method of execution that has produced more than one similarly gruesome outcome in recent months.

Joseph Wood III, who was convicted of murdering and assaulting his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989, appeared to gasp for air for a very long time after the lethal drugs were injected and his execution commenced, The New York Times reported.

“It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes,” his lawyer, Dale Baich, said in a statement, CNN reported.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Dale Baich” author_title=”Joseph Wood’s Lawyer”]

We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today.


The incident came almost four months after the death of Clayton Lockett from Oklahoma, who died of a heart attack hours after being injected with the same combination of supposedly lethal drugs that simply failed to do the job.

Arizona officials used midazolam together with hydromorphone on Wood, the same combination administered to Lockett, and which has also been used for another execution in Ohio, where the same gasping effects were observed.

The problem stems from the fact that no American company still makes the barbiturate sodium thiopental, the drug that was routinely used for executions up until 2009,  and the foreign companies that do still manufacture the drug refuse to sell it for the purpose of lethal injections.

While she raised concern about the supposed length of the execution process, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer cited accounts of state lawyers and eyewitnesses to maintain that Wood died in a “lawful manner” and 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,” Brewer said.

Nevertheless, Governor Brewer ordered the Department of Corrections to investigate the incident.

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