PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona inmate took almost two hours to die by lethal injection on Wednesday and his lawyers said he "gasped and snorted" before succumbing in the latest botched execution to raise questions about the death penalty in the United States. The execution of convicted double murderer Joseph Wood began at 1:52 p.m. at a state prison complex, and the 55-year-old was pronounced dead just shy of two hours later at 3:49 p.m., the Arizona attorney general's office said.
During that time, his lawyers filed an unsuccessful emergency appeal to multiple federal courts that sought to have the execution halted and their client given life-saving medical treatment. The appeal, which said the procedure violated his constitutional right to be executed without suffering cruel and unusual punishment, was denied by Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court. "He gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes," said one of Wood's attorneys, Dale Baich. "Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror: a bungled execution. The public should hold its officials responsible."
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer expressed concern over how long the procedure took and ordered the state's Department of Corrections to conduct a full review, but said justice had been done and that the execution was lawful. "One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer," the Republican governor said in a statement.
"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."
Joseph Wood, 55 at the time of his death, carried out the double murder in August 1989 when he shot his former partner Debbie Dietz and her father Gene at their family-run car body shop in Tuscon, Arizona. Wood, who was said to have assaulted Debbie during their relationship, walked into Dietz and Sons Auto Paint and Body Shop and shot 55-year-old Gene in the chest.
Then, as a desperate Debbie tried to phone for help, Wood grabbed her round the neck. The Arizona Daily Star reports that witnesses heard him tell her "I told you I was going to do it. I love you. I have to kill you, b****" before also shooting the 29-year-old fatally in the chest. When police arrived Wood turned his gun on officers, prompting them to open fire and shoot him nine times.
So do you think that this execution in Arizona is just a case of the karmic wheel of justice doing what it's supposed to do or do we need to come up with a more humane way of executing people? Or is the very idea of humane execution an oxymoron? When you shoot and kill your girlfriend and her father if you are in Arizona there's a chance that you'll have to pay for that with your life. So maybe it is what it is? And if Wood survived being shot nine times was that pain really worse than gasping for breath during his execution? Does this make you reexamine any of your thoughts about the death penalty and its implementation? My issues with the death penalty are its arbitrariness (the overwhelming majority of murderers will never face it) and its unfairness (it's tremendously biased in terms of race, class and gender). But if the State can't kill without torturing should the death penalty be scrapped?