“He Is Still Alive”: Arizona Takes Two Hours To Execute Prisoner

23ARIZONA-now-master180We previously discussed the botched execution in Oklahoma and the questions that it raised about our methods of execution. Now we have another horrific execution story to report. In Arizona, it took almost two hours for the prison to execute Joseph R. Wood III. The execution took so long that his counsel had time to file emergency papers with the federal court saying “He is still alive.”

Wood’s execution was given the green light after the United States Supreme Court overturned a stay of execution that had been granted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit held that the state had to disclose the drugs and the executioners to be used in his lethal injection — a ruling that now seems prophetic though the matter is under investigation. Arizona has disclosed it uses a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone as well as the planned dosages. However, it would not reveal information about the manufacturers and suppliers of the drugs or details about the qualifications of the state prison employees assigned to the execution. The sources of these drugs, as we discussed earlier, have been a major controversy given the international movement to cut off access of U.S. prisons to drugs used in executions.

Wood was seen gasping for breath for more than an hour and a half before he died Wednesday. The execution began at 1:52 p.m., and the inmate was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. Witnesses counted over 600 gasps before he finally died. His lawyers rushed to try to get a court to intervene with no success. They filed with both state and federal courts as well as with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy through his clerk’s office.

In their filing to the district court, “He is still alive . . . This execution has violated Mr. Wood’s Eighth Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment. We respectfully request that this court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol.”

Wood was convicted of shooting to death his ex-girlfriend, 29, and her father, 55, in 1989.

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona made the following statement:

“While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process,” she said. “One thing is certain, however: 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.”

74 thoughts on ““He Is Still Alive”: Arizona Takes Two Hours To Execute Prisoner”

  1. Anyone curious as to why I ripped into samantha for no apparent reason should visit JT’s post, “Former Utah Attorneys General Swallow and Shurtleff Arrested,” especially her final comment where she started off with “saucy, you must be one embarrassed dude.” Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  2. Mike, I respect your opinion. But dollars aren’t the only economic currency

  3. mhj,

    Is any other “greater benefit” to execution other than avoiding your dislike of “coddling subhumans”?

    Because, compared to the value of 144 innocent people’s lives (and counting), your concern seems rather trivial (and that’s being kind).

  4. mhj:

    As a matter of moral reasoning, the decision as to whether to execute someone or imprison him or her ought not to be reduced to economic cost-benefit analysis. Whether or not the state should take a human life requires a thought process fundamentally distinct from that involved in determining whether to add a nickel to the cost of a Hershey bar.

    1. “As a matter of moral reasoning, the decision as to whether to execute someone or imprison him or her ought not to be reduced to economic cost-benefit analysis.”

      As a matter of fact I think you can probably make that argument in a subsistence economy or an economy where every few years one could reasonably expect a crop failure and wide spread famine. In those kinds of societies the cost of carrying the prisoner might affect the survival of law abiding citizens.

      But the US and other industrial nations are probably at least 100 years past that kind of economic problem.

      Further the economic cost of carrying the prisoner is calculable but inconsequential to citizens.

      For the sake of argument, suppose it cost $50,000/year to carry the prisoner.

      The cost per capita/year is approximately .016 cents per year. That is less than 2/100 of one penny per year.

      We may resent carrying the prisoner. But I don’t think there is a moral argument that the cost to society of carrying the prisoner justifies execution.

  5. Fiver, It’s not revenge and its not blood thirsty for me its pure economics. The 144 people are the… risk… and hopefully that number will continually improve (lessen) with time and technology.
    Mike, No, I accept the risk of being innocently convicted of a crime worthy of the death penalty as part of living with this human system. That does not mean that I would like it and that does not mean I wouldn’t contest the verdict.

  6. Schulte, I just read the UK article. 69 percent of respondents favor capital punishment. A few years ago it was far less. Goes to show where our society and people are headed. More and more, we’re resembling the barbarism of the Middle East. Of course, the poll includes non Americans, so the outcome might change when Europeans wake up Sunday morning and read it.

  7. mhj:

    That’s very big of you, mhj, but the only person asked to accept the “risk” is the condemned. That reminds me of the old song lyrics:

    I learned that policemen are our friends,
    I learned that justice never ends,
    I learned that murderers die for their crimes,
    Even if we make a mistake sometimes,
    And that’s what I learned in school today,
    That’s what I learned in school.

  8. mhj,

    Hmmm . . . . Instead of “coddling subhumans” we should kill them. Where have we heard similar sentiment before?

    Thanks for confirming that your stance is neither principled nor rational, but appears instead to be a product of sheer emotion. Gotta love the arm chair tough guys.

    For those with a genuine interest in cost/benefit analysis regarding the death penalty,

    Here’s a list of 144 people who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death then later exonerated.

  9. Samantha, My comments are only indirectly related to the case you cite. Inmates sentenced to life without parole (or death row) are …guilty…, convicted by the system that sent them there. As I stated, no human construct (system) is without risk. I’m willing to accept the risk that they were improperly sentenced.

  10. mhj:

    Is the state permitted to take your life if it concludes that the rest of us would “benefit” from your permanent absence? Who is to make that determination? What is the definition of a “subhuman”? Do you know anyone who has lived a “coddled” life in prison? Have you even seen the inside of a prison? I believe that your comment betrays your true feelings on the issue, which is that certain people do not deserve to live and occasional mistakes are acceptable.

  11. mhj, it is not humane at all if the defendant is innocent.

    If life without parole is so horrible, death-row inmates would commit suicide, much like 9-11 victims who “chose” to jump rather than face the horrible fire.

    I don’t know the circumstances surrounding these murders, but I know the survivors are a vengeful lot.

    I also know that there are women who chew up men, exploit them for their last nickel, then send them on their way, because keeping them around interferes with the image needed to snare a new man. Some men cannot deal with the betrayal, or they are so angry with themselves for not having dumped the women long ago, before going broke, or they were abused, themselves, their primitive response is homicide. For every man convicted of murdering a spouse or beau, there have been how many women who have murdered and gone free, 5, 10, 20, 100? You can’t find the answer in crime statistics, because these women have never been charged. You can, however, find the statistics with coroner reports, but to do so would be politically incorrect, and therefore never used to present the reality that men and women are probably equally vicious. In fact, the FBI hostage taking manual recommends taking out female terrorists, first, perhaps because women have the uncanny ability to feign helplessness, vulnerability, and innocence, while fully ready to murder at the first opportunity. Perhaps it’s a primitive thing, to draw predators away from her litter.

    Like I said, I do not know the circumstances in the Wood case. Just saying. My father warned me of the consequences of betraying someone. Anything can happen, he said, and rarely pretty.

  12. Barbarism.

    Anyone supporting the murder of another person, state/religion sanctioned or not, is a fraction of a human being.

    When we allow the state to resort to the same barbarous methods employed by the guilty it places the rest of us down in the sewer with the filth. The is no redemption to be found in murder.

    A just sentence would have placed Joesph R. Wood III in a cage until he expired from old age.

    Cages were made for animals like Joesph Wood.

  13. There aren’t any human constructions that are without risk. We routinely accept risk for a greater benefit. Why is eliminating the possibility of redemption different?

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