(FLORENCE, Ariz.) -- A double murderer executed in Arizona on Wednesday was pronounced dead almost two hours after the process began, state Attorney General Tom Horne said.
"The execution of Joseph Wood commenced at 1:57 p.m. at the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)-Florence and he was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m.," the Attorney General said in a statement.
Wood's attorneys filed a motion for emergency stay of the execution after the inmate was reported, “gasping and snorting for more than an hour,” according to court documents they filed.
"The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes," said Dale Baich, one of Joseph Wood’s attorneys. "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. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror -- a bungled execution.”
Still, Jeanine Brown, a niece of one of Wood's victims, says that's not what she heard as she witnessed the execution.
"I don't believe he was gasping for air," Brown said. "I don't believe he was suffering. Sound to me as though he was snoring."
Wood was convicted February 25, 1991, and sentenced to death July 2, 1991.
The 55-year-old was involved in an unstable five-year relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, during the time of the crime. On August 7, 1989, Wood walked into the local body shop owned by her family and shot Debbie’s 55-year-old father, Gene Dietz, in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver, according to a statement from the AG.
He later located Debbie, and shot her once in the abdomen and once in the chest, killing her as well, the document stated.
The ACLU said in a statement that executions should be stopped until it can be proved the drugs used work as intended. "Today the state of Arizona broke the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the bounds of basic decency. Joseph Wood suffered cruel and unusual punishment when he was apparently left conscious long after the drugs were administered. According to his emergency papers filed by his attorneys, he was choking and snorting over an hour into the process.
"In its rush to put Mr. Wood to death in secret, Arizona ignored the dire and clear warnings from the botched executions of Oklahoma and Ohio. It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure. Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are come from."
Wood filed several appeals denied by the Supreme Court, including one that claimed his rights were violated by the state's refusal to give details on the drugs that were to be used in the execution.
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