POLITICS

John McCain On Botched Execution Of Arizona Inmate Joseph Wood: 'That's Torture'

07/24/2014 06:12 pm ET | Updated Jul 24, 2014

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) weighed in on the botched execution of Arizona death row inmate Joseph Wood, saying the 2-hour long procedure amounted to "torture."

Wood, who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her father, was was injected with an untested combination of lethal substances at the Arizona State Prison Complex on Wednesday. Witnesses and Wood's lawyers said the inmate was "gasping and snorting for more than an hour" on the gurney during the execution.

In an interview with Politico, McCain called reports of the botched execution "terrible."

“I believe in the death penalty for certain crimes. But that is not an acceptable way of carrying it out. And people who were responsible should be held responsible,” McCain said. “The lethal injection needs to be an indeed lethal injection and not the bollocks-upped situation that just prevailed. That’s torture.”

McCain said he didn't plan to speak to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer about the execution, calling it a "state issue." On Wednesday, Brewer released a statement on the execution denying Wood had suffered:

I am concerned by the length of time it took for the administered drug protocol to complete the lawful execution of the convicted double murderer, Joseph Wood. While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process.

One thing is certain, however, inmate 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.

Wood's execution comes just months after Oklahoma botched the execution of inmate Clayton Lockett, who writhed and clenched his teeth during his lethal injection procedure, dying 45 minutes after it began. Lockett was also administered a new combination of lethal drugs, the result of a nation-wide shortage of lethal injection drugs.

Studies have revealed disturbing truths about the U.S. death penalty, including that innocent lives have been taken and executions are often botched. Amherst law professor Austin Sarat, who has examined every execution from 1890 to 2010, has said pain may be inevitable in executions, no matter the method.

"A close look at executions in America suggests that despite our best efforts, pain and potential for error are inseparable from the process through which the state extinguishes life -- and that the conversation about capital punishment needs to take that fact into consideration," Sarat wrote in the Boston Globe in April.

For more on Wood's execution, go here.

Also on HuffPost:

  • Lethal Injection
    AP
  • Until 2010, most states used a three-drug combination: an anesthetic (pentobarbital or sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent (pancuronium bromide) to paralyze the muscle system, and a drug to stop the heart (potassium chloride). Recently, European pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell drugs to the U.S. for use in lethal injections, requiring states to find new, untested alternatives.
  • Gas Chamber
    AP
  • Gas chambers, like this one pictured at the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., were first used in the U.S. in 1924. In the procedure, an inmate is sealed inside an airtight chamber which is then filled with toxic hydrogen cyanide gas. Oxygen starvation ultimately leads to death, but the inmate does not immediately lose consciousness.
  • Electric Chair
    AP
  • The first electric chair was used in 1890. Electrodes attached to an inmate's body deliver a current of electricity. Sometimes more than one jolt is required.
  • Hanging
    AP
  • Hanging was used as the primary method of execution in the U.S. until the electric chair's invention in 1890. Death is typically caused by dislocation of the vertebrae or asphyxiation, but in cases when the rope is too long, the inmate can sometimes be decapitated. If too short, the inmate can take up to 45 minutes to die.
  • Firing Squad
    AP
  • This Old West-style execution method dates back to the invention of firearms. In a typical scenario in the U.S., the inmate is strapped to a chair. Five anonymous marksmen stand 20 feet away, aim rifles at the convict's heart, and shoot. One rifle is loaded with blanks.
  • Beheading
    Wikimedia Commons
  • Decapitation has been used in capital punishment for thousands of years. Above is the chopping block used for beheadings at the Tower of London.
  • Guillotine
    Kauko via Wikimedia Commons
  • Invented in France in the late 18th century during the French Revolution, the guillotine was designed to be an egalitarian means of execution. It severed the head more quickly and efficiently than beheading by sword.
  • Hanging, Drawing and Quartering
    Wikimedia Commons
  • A punishment for men convicted of high treason, "hanging, drawing and quartering" was used in England between the 13th and 19th centuries. Men were dragged behind a horse, then hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and chopped or torn into four pieces.
  • Slow Slicing
    Carter Cutlery/Wikimedia Commons
  • Also called "death by a thousand cuts," this execution method was used in China from roughly A.D. 900 until it was banned in 1905. The slicing took place for up to three days. It was used as punishment for treason and killing one's parents.
  • Boiling Alive
    Wikimedia Commons
  • Death by boiling goes back to the first century A.D., and was legal in the 16th century in England as punishment for treason. This method of execution involved placing the person into a large cauldron containing a boiling liquid such as oil or water.
  • Crucifixion
    Wikimedia Commons
  • Crucifixion goes back to around the 6th century B.C.used today in Sudan. For this method of execution, a person is tied or nailed to a cross and left to hang. Death is slow and painful, ranging from hours to days.
  • Burning Alive
    Pat Canova via Getty Images
  • Records show societies burning criminals alive as far back as the 18 century B.C. under Hammurabi's Code of Laws in Babylonia. It has been used as punishment for sexual deviancy, witchcraft, treason and heresy.
  • Live Burial
    Antoine Wiertz/Wikimedia Commons
  • Execution by burial goes back to 260 B.C. in ancient China, when 400,000 were reportedly buried alive by the Qin dynasty. Depending on the size of the coffin (assuming there is one), it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours for a person to run out of oxygen.
  • Stoning
    Wikimedia Commons
  • This ancient method of execution continues to be used as punishment for adultery today.
  • Crushing By Elephant
    Wikimedia Commons
  • This method was commonly used for many centuries in South and Southeast Asia, in which an elephant would crush and dismember convicts as a punishment for treason.
  • Flaying
    Michelangelo/Wikimedia Commons
  • Records show flaying, the removal of skin from the body, was used as far back as the 9th century B.C.
  • Impalement
    Wikimedia Commons
  • Records show this execution practice used as far back as the 18th century B.C., where a person is penetrated through the center of their body with a stake or pole.
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