Governor, Prison Chief Claim There Was No Suffering in 2-Hour Execution of Joseph Wood

Categories: News
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Matthew Hendley


It took two hours to execute convicted murderer Joseph Wood yesterday, but state officials claim he never suffered.

The first use in Arizona of a new two-drug protocol for lethal injection went on so long that Wood's attorneys, federal public defenders, filed a motion in federal court seeking to stop the execution.

See also:
-Yesterday: Arizona Executes of Joseph Wood

Twenty-five years after murdering his estranged girlfriend and her father, the execution of Wood started at the state prison in Florence at 1:52 p.m. yesterday. Wood was considered sedated by 1:57 p.m., and by 2:02 p.m., the order was given to administer the first dose of the lethal drugs.

More than an hour later, Wood still hadn't died, although a typical lethal injection usually lasts a matter of minutes. Wood's attorneys filed a motion to try to put an end to it, and were in a hearing with a federal judge by telephone by 3:27 p.m.

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During the hearing, Wake was getting updates from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Zick was providing updates on Wood's state, which was gradually decreasing. At one point, Wake was told that Wood was in a coma, and later, that he was brain-dead.

Wood eventually died at 3:49 p.m., before Wake made his ruling.

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After the state Attorney General's office announced Wood's death, Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan issued a statement saying Wood was never in any pain or distress:
"The Department of Corrections followed the execution protocol and, as with every execution, it was monitored by an IV team of licensed medical professionals in control of the medical procedures.

"The first confirmation that inmate Wood was fully and deeply sedated occurred at 1:57 PM, five minutes after the direction to proceed with the administration of drugs was given. The medical team re-affirmed the inmate remained deeply sedated seven additional times before death was pronounced at 3:49 PM.

"Once the inmate was sedated, other than sonorous respiration, or snoring, he did not grimace or make any further movement. 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.

"Physiologically, the time to complete an execution varies for each individual. The Department of Corrections will conduct a full review of the execution protocol and process. We will await the results of an independent autopsy from the Pima County Medical Examiner and we have requested a toxicology study as well."
Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, one of only a few reporters allowed to witness the execution, did not describe an easy death in his report:
"He gulped like a fish on land. The movement was like a piston: The mouth opened, the chest rose, the stomach convulsed. And when the doctor came in to check on his consciousness and turned on the microphone to announce that Wood was still sedated, we could hear the sound he was making: a snoring, sucking, similar to when a swimming-pool filter starts taking in air, a louder noise than I can imitate, though I have tried.

"It was death by apnea. And it went on for an hour and a half. I made a pencil stroke on a pad of paper, each time his mouth opened, and ticked off more than 640, which was not all of them, because the doctor came in at least four times and blocked my view."
Governor Jan Brewer also issued a statement saying, in part, that "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," Brewer's statement added.

One of Wood's attorneys, Dale Baich sent us a statement saying it can't be ruled out that Wood was in pain:
"It is premature for anyone to comment on what Mr. Wood experienced during the most prolonged bungled execution in recent history, which took place last night. There is far too much that we don't know at this point, including information about the drugs, why Arizona selected these drugs and amounts, the qualifications of the execution team, and more. It is important for the people of Arizona to get answers, and only an independent investigation can provide the transparency needed following an execution cloaked in secrecy that went wrong."
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne had announced in March that the state would be switching to this new protocol, using medazolam and hydromorphone to execute people instead of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital has become increasingly hard for prisons to obtain because the pharmaceutical companies that produce it have been wanting to get out of the execution business.

In his announcement, Horne did not describe how they came up with this new combination of drugs. Wood's execution had actually been placed on hold earlier this week because the state refused to disclose certain answers about the drugs and the new execution method.

Interestingly, in Horne's announcement, he noted that Oklahoma had just instituted the same lethal injection policy. Oklahoma ended up using that injection protocol first on a man named Clayton Lockett, who died in April after the prison botched the execution -- the dosage administered to Lockett wasn't enough, the execution was called off, and Lockett died of a heart attack within the hour.

American University professor Richard Stack, who's written several books on capital punishment, tells New Times the reports of the death he's read lead him to believe there was certainly some suffering in Wood's death.

"I can't believe that an execution that took nearly two hours that the guy is snoring or peacefully existing while this poison is killing him," he says.

Although state officials have essentially said everything went okay, Stack says that doesn't send a good message.

"What example is the state sending the rest of us? That violence is a solution," he says.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.


My Voice Nation Help
40 comments
fishingblues
fishingblues

Hang me high.

Poke me in the butt.

Torture me till I cry

Think I'll suck another dick

And watch another child porm movie

Only minors need apply


fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Hang 'em high.

Poke 'em in the eye.

Torture 'em til they cry.

Think I'll have a piece of pie

And watch another loser die.  

Only liberals need apply.  

chris.m.robert
chris.m.robert

Matthew made it all the way to word #6 of this article before the first typo. The headrush from sniffing those cop jocks is sooooo distracting!

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

There was a report on tonight about the drugs that were used, these 3 are full of shit and are lying to everyone.

Medical experts on the drugs used say the opposite from what these clowns are telling people.

From what everyone is saying, he died of apnea as Kiefer reported.

Sure wish we could strap Charles Ryan, Tom HorneyDog and Brewer to a gurney and shoot their asses up with that shit and have them tell us if there's any pain.

arizonaeagletarian
arizonaeagletarian

It's no longer unusual, but it's still cruel. And it's not necessarily a good thing for society to allow this circus act to be repeated. There is zero deterrent effect. Death penalty cases cost substantially more to prosecute and carry out over the course of the appeals. It's time to stop the practice altogether..

TommyCollins
TommyCollins topcommenter

It appears Mrs. Brewer can empathize with victims of violent crimes. I would imagine a family member has shared his joy with her. 


I don't care for Mrs. Brewer. I think she is a poor excuse for a human being.

Ben De Valk
Ben De Valk

so snoring is suffering ? i guess i suffer every night then........

rh19541954
rh19541954

The great irony of the death penalty is those who do face that moment have a opportunity many who hate them will never have! To know their day, hour and moment of demise, be able to sincerely ask Jesus into their hearts, ask for forgiveness and be washed clean of their sins, now I know the atheists will have a cow, the lip service Christians will go bonkers that they might end up in the place they think the condemned are going! But there is a reason mankind was not given a vote on our destinations after death! Mankind is incapable of honest, fair judgment and many are incapable of forgiveness, guess God is wise to have the only one who could do this job be his son Jesus!

rh19541954
rh19541954

If state elected officials have illegally imported drugs have they committed a felony? It seems some states have already done so, seems federal prosecutors are derelict of their duties if they are not indicting anyone who has illegally imported forbidden drugs to USA!

SeedyWard
SeedyWard

Why can't they broadcast executions publicly? You have to know they'd have a big audience. Let the blood thirsty masses revel in their lust. Sell advertising to corporate sponsors! Now please don't hand me any BS about dignity, privacy, and so forth. There is no dignity or honor in any of this. We should, then, revel in the spectacle! Bread and circuses for all!


glyphhunter
glyphhunter

I'd like to learn what doses of those medications Wood received. Midazolam (not medazolam), aka Versed, is in the same family as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan. Hydromorphone, aka Dilaudid, is an opiate roughly seven times stronger than morphine. Both of these meds will cause respiratory depression when administered, and that was the goal of this execution. While I object to the use of these medications for the purpose of execution, I have to say that I doubt Wood suffered.


Mark Wise
Mark Wise

Does it matter did he care when he did what he did?? #nolove

snort_everybodydrink
snort_everybodydrink

only one person knew if there was any suffering going on and he didn't report any at all. that means there was no suffering. strap the next one down, let's get this party going, you have to drink a shot every time he snorts. why should the condemned be the only ones who get wasted on these festive occasions?

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

Why cant they simply have the convicted murderer kneel down in front of the witnesses and the victims family  then have the executioner fire 1 bullet to the back of the head ? It would be over in a second and it would eliminate all B.S.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

Jan, STFU. You are one stupid old hag. There. I said it.

Horneboi, You are one crooked SOB. Resign. Now. There. I said it.

RaymondWashington
RaymondWashington

@ConcernedCitizenAZ don't let the naysayers get to you, you're doing a huge service for the condemned criminals with all this copypasta. I wouldn't be surprised if your efforts here end up saving a future criminal's life... your work is THAT good.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@ConcernedCitizenAZ 

Governors should have to personally watch every step of all executions in their State from start to finish.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ConcernedCitizenAZ


Damn, are you on your high horse.  Don't you think just one or two posts displaying your displeasure with the death penalty would be enough?


By the way, it is not just Arizona and it is not just politicians, 63% of Americans favor the death penalty. 

hesconcernedhimself
hesconcernedhimself

@ConcernedCitizenAZ you are a gigantic party pooper, you know that? can't we just enjoy this murderer's snort-filled snuffing without you raining on everybody's parade? this is why you don't get invited to parties.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@arizonaeagletarian ... as you know it needs to be BOTH Cruel AND Unusual for it to trigger Constitutional protection.


Benito Scalia wrote for the majority of the U$ Supreme Court that CRUEL punishments are ok, so long as they occur often thereby not rendering them unusual.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... may your wish come true.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@SeedyWard 

Thats actually a great idea. Make everyone watch it.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@glyphhunter ... try that cocktail of drugs on yourself and report back if you suffered.

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@snort_everybodydrink I wonder if the with the A.C.L.U. has plans to sue hell?  there must be a lot of eternal suffering going on down there

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@john043012 why cant they simply give them a shot to the head? because we are supposed to be better than them. lethal injection is supposed to be a humane execution, which is what we are trying to show...........that we are humane and compassionate, not cold blooded killers. the bullet to the back of the head is just an outright execution. what kind of sick individual would you have to find who would want to administer the "coup de grace" for a living? they have come up with many different ways through out history to relieve some of the psychological impact that a executioner would be exposed too. they devised methods where multiple buttons would be pushed by multi[ple people so no one really knew who was the hand of death..........if they did things like that, why would they want to find one guy to just put a bullet in the back of heads? that would either be a twisted fuck to begin with or he would be after a few days on the job. i am by no means against the death penalty, but i found your comment to be pretty asinine. in all seriousness John......i expected better from you. we disagree on many things, but i havent found you to normally make asinine statements like that one. of all the people i argue with, i found you to be one of the more rational ones until that comment. and as for the witnesses................do you want to be front row to see someones brain blown out? if you do, that is a violent act that they dont want people anxious to see. the point of the witnesses (aside from the family) is to see and make sure that it was not cruel or unusual punishment.......those people arent going to watch a snuff film, they are watching to make sure the law is followed and justice is served

fishingblues
fishingblues

@fishingblues 

What, that we're gay butt fucking homo's that like little boys ? 

Now, now, you know it's us talking to ourselves. Admit it.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ConcernedCitizenAZ


Hatred?  No!  I simply like to poke fun at simpletons, arrogant assholes, pretentious pricks and loopy, loony liberals.


Coincidentally, you hit every one.   

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

we are trying to create a society that abhors violence, not encourage or want to participate in it. a bullet to the back of the head is just cold blooded. they may or may not deserve it, but we debase ourselves and our stance against violent deaths if we impose that as a judgement

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@danzigsdaddy My point was a quick and thorough solution to the objectors who now say killing murderers by lethal injection is inhumane and I agree with that if future execution's take 2 hrs thus my suggestion of the bullet. Electric chairs and hangings have been ruled inhumane and now lethal injections are under fire. Lawyers for the convicted and sentenced to death criminals  will throw up any roadblock possible and liberal douchebags will always find fault with are judicial system

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@john043012 lethal injections arent under fire..............botched ones are. people will always protest death sentences, but screwing those sentences up (as in this case) only gives those who are fighting it ammo. you cant call it humane if the guy is struggling to breathe. they fucked up a simple overdose..........there is no getting around that.

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