Arizona AG Defends Criticism Over Botched Execution

Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 06:50 PM

By Andrea Billups

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Amid growing national criticism over an alleged botched execution Wednesday, Arizona's attorney general is denying claims that a death row inmate gasped repeatedly for air after being giving drugs for a lethal injection.

A spokeswoman for Tom Horne, the state's top attorney, said Joseph Rudolph Wood "did not gasp for air," even as reporters who witnessed the execution, as well as Wood's defense attorneys in the case, said publicly that the condemned inmate was visibly struggling to breathe, buzzfeed.com reported.

Wood's execution took nearly two hours, according to Horne, who told reporters that it began at 1:52 p.m. and was over at 3:49 p.m.

Wood's condition prompted defense attorneys to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Anthony Kennedy for an emergency stay, in mid-execution, noting the convicted double-murderer's 8th Amendment rights to "be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment" had been violated.

In their filing, the attorneys called for the execution to be halted: "He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour." Typically, they said, an execution by lethal injection takes about 10 minutes.

Stephanie Grisham, the attorney general's press secretary, later wrote to Buzzfeed: "I witnessed the execution thought [sic] and he DID NOT gasp for air. I encourage you to look at video from the families who were interviewed."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has called for an investigation into the state's lethal injection execution protocol, saying she was concerned about the amount of time it had taken Wood to die, Fox News reported.

But Brewer's statement continued: "One thing is certain, however. 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."

The problem rekindled a discussion of the nation's death penalty laws. It marked the third botched execution in a month, ABC News reported.

The family of Wood's victims had little sympathy over concerns that he had suffered, noting he had lived for 25 years before his sentence was carried out. Wood, 55, had been convicted of murdering Debbie Dietz and her father, Gene Dietz, in 1989.

Jeanne Brown, the victims' sister and daughter, was incredulous.

"It took too long? Twenty-five years later, for this to go through?" Brown told ABC News. "Excruciating? You don't know what excruciating is, seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying in a pool of blood … This man deserves it."


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