This afternoon, at 1:57 pm, inmate Joseph Wood was injected with lethal drugs by the state of Arizona, a cocktail it had never tried out before today. Mr. Wood faced the ultimate penalty for committing two cold-blooded murders in 1989. What happened next would chill the blood of even the staunchest proponent of the death penalty:
"It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes."
Here are the grisly details, as reported, in real time, by public defender Jon M. Sands:
"At 1:57 p.m ADC reported that Mr. Wood was sedated, but at 2:02 he began to breathe. At 2:03 his mouth moved. Mr. Wood has continued to breathe since that time. He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour. At 3:02 p.m. At that time, staff rechecked for sedation. He is still alive."
"Wood would go on to gasp more than 600 times over the course of an hour and 40 minutes,"NBC news reported. "One witness likened it to the movements a fish makes when it's taken out of water."
Midway through Mr. Wood's ordeal, the public defender petitioned to halt the execution and begin to resuscitate Mr. Wood. It was cruel and unusual punishment, Mr. Sands contended, to execute a man this way. But he was pronounced dead at 3:49 pm.
Following the botched execution in Oklahoma last February, lasting 43 minutes, today's protracted execution in Arizona should strengthen calls for states to reconsider how they put criminals to death. In a statement released tonight, Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, wrote, “Americans have had enough of the barbarism."
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