Arizona inmate’s attorney calls for independent investigation into drawn-out execution

July 24, 2014

An undated file photo of Joseph Wood. (Arizona Department of Corrections via AP)

In the wake of Arizona’s prolonged execution of Joseph R. Wood III, one of his attorneys is calling for an independent investigation to find out what happened.

Dale Baich, an attorney for Wood, said Thursday that much remains unknown about the execution. When Wood was killed by lethal injection in Arizona on Wednesday, the process took nearly two hours, far longer than is typical. Baich, in an interview with The Washington Post shortly after the execution, said he watched Wood “gasp and breathe heavily” for more than an hour and 40 minutes.

Other witnesses — including reporters for the Associated Press and Arizona Republic — similarly said they saw Wood gasp more than 600 times.

State officials disputed these accounts in the hours after the execution, insisting that Wood did not suffer, was never in pain and did not gasp. Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general’s office and a witness to the execution, said “there was no gasping or snoring.”

Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and Charles Ryan, the head of the Arizona Department of Corrections, both issued statements stressing that Wood did not suffer and saying a full review would occur.

Brewer ordered Ryan’s department to conduct the review, but Baich called for an outside inquiry.

“There is far too much that we don’t know at this point, including information about the drugs, why Arizona selected these drugs and amounts, the qualifications of the execution team, and more,” Baich said in a statement. “It is important for the people of Arizona to get answers, and only an independent investigation can provide the transparency needed following an execution cloaked in secrecy that went wrong.”

[Related: For two hours, she watched her family's killer die]

The families of double murderer Joseph Wood’s victims expressed frustration with concern for his well-being, with one man saying death-row inmates “deserve to suffer a little bit.” (Reuters)
Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Mark Berman · July 24, 2014