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AP reporter's account of botched execution

Arizona Execution Drugs


FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) -- Joseph Rudolph Wood looked around the death chamber and glanced at the doctors as they made preparations for his execution, locating the proper veins and inserting two lines into his arms.

Wood then uttered his final words, smiled at the victim's family members and made eye contact with a deacon. Just after declaring that he was at peace with his death, he smiled at the deacon, but for a second, a subtle look of panic took over his face.

Officials administered the lethal drugs at 1:52 p.m. Wood's eyes closed.

About 10 minutes later, the gasping began.

Wood's jaw dropped, his chest expanded, and he let out a gasp. The gasps repeated every five to 12 seconds. They went on and on, hundreds of times. An administrator checked on him a half-dozen times. He could be heard snoring loudly when an administrator turned on a microphone to inform the gallery that Wood was still sedated, despite the audible sounds.

As the episode dragged on, Wood's lawyers frantically drew up an emergency legal appeal, asking federal and state courts to step in and stop the execution.

"He has been gasping for more than an hour," the lawyers pleaded in their filings. "He is still alive."

The Arizona Supreme Court convened an impromptu telephone hearing with a defense lawyer and attorney for the state to decide what to do.

Wood took his last breath at 3:37 p.m. Twelve minutes later, Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan declared Wood dead. The state court was informed of the death while its hearing was underway.

It took one hour and 57 minutes for the execution to be completed, and Wood was gasping for more than an hour and a half of that time.

The execution quickly re-ignited the death penalty debate as critics denounced it as cruel and unusual punishment and said it raised grave questions about the two-drug combination Arizona uses for lethal injections. Wood had waged an intense, last-minute legal battle that challenged the state over key information about who supplies the drugs and how they are administered.

Wood was convicted of murdering Debbie Dietz and her father, Gene Dietz, in 1989 at a Tucson auto repair shop. Minutes after the execution, the victims' family members spoke to the media.

"What I saw today with him being executed, it is nothing compared to what happened on Aug. 7, 1989," said Debbie Dietz's sister, Jeanne Brown. "What's excruciating is seeing your father lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying in a pool of blood."

Her husband, Richard Brown, had a similar thought.

"This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, `let's worry about the drugs,'" said Richard Brown. "Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?"

About an hour and a half after the execution, Gov. Jan Brewer said she had ordered the Corrections Department to conduct a full review of the process. She added that she believed 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 said.

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Ariz. Gov. Orders Review After Inmate's Prolonged Execution

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
lorraine.usa July 24 2014 at 4:23 AM

The only injustice done here is that this
murderer got to live for 25 years after killing these innocent people.

Flag Reply +102 rate up
17 replies
mhwyman7 July 24 2014 at 4:29 AM

A Bullet to the head would not go on for 2 hours.

Flag Reply +100 rate up
18 replies
luke5kywa1ker July 24 2014 at 4:33 AM

You'll excuse me if I have no sympathy for a murderer.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
8 replies
racjaa July 24 2014 at 4:33 AM

This story doesn/t bother me at all even though it is written to try. The guy was unconscious. He had a better death than his victims and that isnt right. He brutalized his victim until a worthless restraining order was obtained. and he killed anyway.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
6 replies
FRED July 24 2014 at 4:53 AM

You are given the death sentence, brought into another place, rope around your neck or bullet to the heart, and done. No waiting 20 years in a cell, no "politically correct" way to execute, just plain old "quick and dirty".

Flag Reply +99 rate up
10 replies
jfsavo July 24 2014 at 4:56 AM

Funny how these so called doctors do not know how to overdose someone when need be.
As a vet tech, I could do better.
Hey guys, hire me, I will put the scum out in less that 3 seconds.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
25 replies
sirbosk1 July 24 2014 at 4:56 AM

"Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?" Good questions. Firing squads with a final shot in the head by the leader of the squad at the end should be fast. However, who gives a $hit. The man brutally killed innocent people. This scum bag was not innocent. He got what he deserved.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
2 replies
ranger197172 sirbosk1 July 24 2014 at 6:04 AM

I would like to see his stomach pumped full of gasoline, a fuse inserted and lit.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
3 replies
DasMole57 sirbosk1 July 24 2014 at 2:40 PM

The stomach gasoline is a creative alternative. Good suggestion.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jasontberry July 24 2014 at 5:13 AM

I agree with what others have said, why wait for years? Found guilty, immediate death. No waiting, no cruel and unusual punishment, just immediate death. We spend so much money every year keeping people like this alive so they can have appeal after appeal. This is ridiculous. Spend that saved money on something more important than putting food in these criminals mouths.

Flag Reply +98 rate up
18 replies
Greeneyes July 24 2014 at 4:51 AM

He was not awake. If you read the article it states his eyes were closed. Which means he was asleep and not conscience. The pain he put his victims through was much worse. I feel no sorrow for this man.

Flag Reply +95 rate up
2 replies
savannahswithgod Greeneyes July 24 2014 at 8:54 AM

Your eyes being close does not mean you are unconscious? I got cats with Green Eyes. My eyes are Hazel, sort of green I guess.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
3 replies
lthom2540 Greeneyes July 24 2014 at 12:08 PM

Really! How may people cared about how the father and daughter died.. they had no warning , no appeals, just killed.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
garyep59 July 24 2014 at 4:47 AM

He should've been taking that last breath for the past 25 years. I have no sympathy for him whatsoever. A bullet would've been a whole lot cheaper. He got what he deserved, but at a too late of date!

Flag Reply +94 rate up
1 reply
pam373 garyep59 July 24 2014 at 11:32 AM

I would have like to see him tortured!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
3 replies
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