Joseph Rudolph Wood III

Botched Death Penalty: “I counted about 660 times he gasped.”

Inmate’s execution takes nearly 2 hours

Joseph Rudolph Wood III remained alive at Arizona’s state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. CST. The motion noted that Wood “has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour” after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood’s arms. After Wood said his last words, he was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.

“I counted about 660 times he gasped,” Kiefer said. “That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49,” Kiefer said.

Another reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden, said it was “very disturbing to watch … like a fish on shore gulping for air.”

Imagine a hypothetical alternative scenario. Wood is strapped down to the table. He is given the injection. He starts to gasp and it is evident something is not right. A jailer leans over, ties a cord around Wood’s neck and strangles him, finishing him off. Would this be legal or just? Many might say it would be preferable to letting him suffer. Yet it would be unlawful. Thus, this statement shows just how Kafkaesque and bizarre state sanctioned executions are:

Gov. Jan Brewer issued a statement Wednesday saying she was concerned about the length of time it took for the drug to complete the lawful execution. She said she has ordered 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,” her statement said.

Not only did the individual suffer — no form of capital punishment is free of suffering — but the eyewitness accounts we have say that he suffered in a particularly extreme and gruesome way.