A recently botched execution of a prisoner in Arizona has once again sparked the debate over the morality and justification for the death penalty. For Joseph Wood’s execution, it took him nearly two hours to die.
He was gasping for air and withering in excruciating pain. Lawyers attempted to file an emergency motion to halt the process but the court was unsympathetic and Woods eventually died. For the execution, the state used an experimental (and secretive) concoction of drugs. Woods was injected with a “relatively untested” combination of sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. The execution started at 1:52pm, with the injection being completed several minutes later, he was finally announced dead at 3:49pm. Woods’ sentence was punishment for the previous 1989 murders in Tucson, of his former girlfriend Debra Dietz, and her father Eugene Dietz.
Wood’s legal team were scrambling up until the end, trying to get the courts to divulge the information about what drugs Woods was going to be injected with and more. His execution was given a temporarily stay of execution, offered by the ninth circuit federal court of appeals, but then it was unexpectedly lifted on Tuesday; allowing the execution to go forward.
This also isn’t the first time that the state used this same worrisome drug combination, they also messed-up on the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio in January, which took 26 minutes for Dennis to die.
Wood’s lawyer stated, “Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror – a bungled execution. The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent…. Because the governor and the highest law enforcement official in Arizona have already expressed their view that Mr Wood did not suffer, and because the state of Arizona fought tooth and nail to protect the extreme secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drugs and execution personnel, the only way to begin to remedy this is with open government and transparency.”
In a dissent over the Arizona death penalty case of Joseph Rudolph Wood III, U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski argues that we should be more honest about executions and the blood that gets shed, we should not try to brand them as being some peaceful and civilized experience.
“Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments,” he wrote.
“But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”
Judge Kozinski filed his dissent after the Supreme Court overturned the 9th Circuit panel on Tuesday. The 9th Circuit panel had ruled a few days earlier that Wood did have 1st Amendment protection in that he had a right to know more information about the execution drugs, including the manufacturer, and about the qualifications of the execution team. Judge Kozinski makes it clear that he is in favor of capital punishment and generally not opposed to the death penalty. He claims that lethal injection protocols flood the court system therefore the program should be scrapped.
“I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go,” Kozinski said. [The guillotine is] pretty much foolproof… he said, but probably would not be accepted by the public. A firing squad would be “messy but effective.” Eight or 10 large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. If we as a society cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by a firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all.” Kozinski said.
It’s clear that Kozinski doesn’t have much respect for the cruel and unusual punishment protections that are in place for sentencing and it’s disturbing to hear a prominent member of the “justice system” state that he’d like to see people being shot in the streets.
Some are thankful for the wait in processing time however, many inmates have later been cleared when new evidence and testing procedures were able to prove their innocent and have their previous charges dropped. If the system would have been “more efficient” and killed them sooner, then the state would’ve taken an innocent life. The state has proven itself to be a questionable administrators of justice at best, on average, inmates spend an average of 15 years on death row.