Huffpost Crime

Arizona Execution: Joseph Wood 'Gasping And Snorting For More Than An Hour,' Lawyers Say

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An Arizona inmate gasped and snorted in an execution that lasted nearly two hours on Tuesday.

Lawyers for Joseph Wood had filed an emergency motion to abort the execution because their client was still alive more than an hour after receiving a lethal injection that was intended to kill him quickly and peacefully.

Their motion, filed in federal district court, failed to save Wood. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced that the 55-year-old convicted killer was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m.

Court papers said the execution started 117 minutes earlier.

"He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour," Wood's lawyers wrote in their hurried attempt to call off the execution and force Arizona to provide Wood with life-saving care. "He is still alive."

A journalist from the Arizona Republic who witnessed the execution said Wood gasped for air 660 times after the drugs were introduced through intravenous tubes.

Wood was convicted of killing his girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father in 1989.

Dietz's sister dismissed concerns about how Wood died.

"I don't believe he was suffering," Dietz's sister, Jeannie Brown told NBC News. "Who really suffered was my dad and my sister when they were killed."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) ordered a review and said she was "concerned" about how the execution unfolded, according to NBC, but said Wood didn't suffer "in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims."

Defense lawyers and prosecutors had battled in court in the run-up to Wood’s execution. His attorneys sought to postpone his execution unless Arizona disclosed information about the untested cocktail of deadly drugs they planned to administer to him, the Arizona Republic reported.

They also argued that Wood's original defense was inadequate. The Arizona Supreme Court, however, rejected both arguments earlier today and allowed the execution to go forward.

After Wood's death was announced, one of his lawyers in a statement given to HuffPost criticized the secrecy Arizona officials maintained around the experimental use of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone.

Following the execution, Arizona's department of corrections asserted that it had followed protocol and the process was monitored by a team of medical professionals. The Washington Post reports that sedation of Wood was confirmed eight times. The corrections department held that aside from snoring, Wood was still and did not "grimace" during the execution, according to CNN.

"We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror -- a bungled execution," Dale Baich said. "The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

In April, Oklahoma halted the execution of inmate Clayton Lockett who writhed in the death chamber during an execution prolonged by poorly administered drugs.

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