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Inmate dies hours after execution began

Thursday, July 24, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) — A condemned Arizona inmate gasped for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

Wood’s lawyers had filed emergency appeals with federal and state courts Court while the execution was underway, demanding that it be stopped. The appeal said Wood was “gasping and snorting for more than an hour.”

Gov. Jan Brewer said later that she’s ordering a full review of the state’s execution process, saying she’s concerned by how long it took for the administered drug protocol to kill Wood.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and 40 minutes.

An administrator checked on Wood a half dozen times. His breathing slowed as a deacon said a prayer while holding a rosary. The 55-year-old finally stopped breathing and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

“Throughout this execution, I conferred and collaborated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress,” said state Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Defense lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

“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.”

Family members of Wood’s victims said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

“This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, ‘let’s worry about the drugs,”’ said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz, who was 29 when she was killed in 1989. “Why didn’t they give him a bullet? Why didn’t we give him Drano?”

Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his savior. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family.

“I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all,” Wood said.

 

 
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