Why Is It So Difficult To Carry Out An Execution?

Grand Potentate

Supporter of Possible Sexual Deviants
I just do not understand this. Another poor fuck got put through the two hours of, torture I guess, in an effort to inject him with some chemical concoction that should have killed him in around 10 minutes. Why is this so difficult? Here's the new story:


The execution of a convicted murderer in Arizona on Wednesday took nearly two hours, confirming concerns that had been raised by his attorneys about a controversial drug used by the state.

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.

MORE: Federal judge urges return of firing squads

GRAPHIC: How lethal injection works

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.


Reporter describes gruesome scene of Ariz. execution

EARLIER: Ariz. top court allows execution to proceed

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

Typically, executions by lethal injection take about 10 minutes.

Family members of the victims had a less sympathetic take on Wood's final moments Wednesday.

Jeanne Brown, sister of Debra Dietz and daughter of Eugene Dietz, whom Wood was convicted of murdering, witnessed the execution. She said it sounded more like Wood was snoring than gasping for air.

"What I saw with him today being executed -- this was nothing," she said.


Joseph Rudolph Wood(Photo: AP)

Brown said what Wood experienced Wednesday did not compare to the pain her family has suffered for the past 25 years.

"You don't know what excruciating is -- seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood ... This man deserved it," she said.

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.

Reached via text message, state Attorney General Tom Horne's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said the office had no comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona issued a statement calling for a moratorium on executions.

"What happened today to Mr. Wood was an experiment that the state did its best to hide," Executive Director Alessandra Soler said. "Now we see that our government officials cannot be trusted to take seriously our Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment."

The Arizona Supreme Court had lifted a temporary stay of Wood's execution shortly before noon Wednesday, clearing the way for his execution later in the day. Wood had been scheduled to die at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but the court halted the process long enough to consider a last-minute petition for post-conviction relief. Witnesses were told when the stay was issued to return by 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Wood, 55, was sentenced to death for killing Debra Dietz and Eugene Dietz in 1989 at the family's automotive shop in Tucson.

Wood and Debra Dietz had a tumultuous relationship in which he periodically assaulted her. Dietz tried to end their relationship and got an order of protection against Wood.

Wood went to the auto body shop and shot Eugene Dietz in the chest. He then hunted down Debra Dietz and shot her twice.

He was sentenced to death twice and lived quietly on death row until his appeals ran out.

In recent years, many states that still have capital punishment, including Arizona, have passed or expanded laws that shroud the procedures in secrecy.

The Arizona Department of Corrections planned to use a controversial drug, and it favors a controversial method of administering it, so Wood's attorneys demanded to know the qualifications of the executioners and the origin of the drugs to be used in the execution, claiming that Wood had a First Amendment right to the information.

On Saturday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted the stay without addressing the First Amendment issue.

State officials said in court filings that they need to maintain secrecy because publicity has made it more difficult to obtain the drugs needed to carry out executions.

Drug manufacturers have begun refusing to sell to departments of corrections, forcing the departments to experiment with new and less reliable drugs or to specially order them from compounding pharmacies, which in turn are harassed by anti-death-penalty activists.

Last October, a Florida man was executed with a three-drug protocol starting with midazolam. The Associated Press reported that the prisoner "remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed recently by lethal injection under the old formula."

In January, an Ohio prisoner who received a cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone gasped for air and took more than 20 minutes to die, compared with the usual 10 minutes or so when prisoners are executed with thiopental or pentobarbital.

And during an April execution in Oklahoma, the condemned man at first appeared to be unconscious, but then began "writhing and bucking," one eyewitness wrote.

The execution was stopped, but the man subsequently died of an apparent heart attack.

Then I was reading Kevin Drum and he had many of the same questions that I do:

A Question About Botched Executions
—By Kevin Drum

| Thu Jul. 24, 2014 12:45 PM EDT
I'm reluctant to ask a question that may strike some people as too cavalier for a subject that deserves only serious treatment. But after yesterday's botched execution in Arizona—the latest of several—I continue to wonder: why is it so damn hard to execute people?

For starters, there are plenty of time-tested approaches: guillotines, firing squads, hanging, electrocution, gas chambers, etc. Did those really fall out of favor because people found them too grisly? Personally, I find the sterile, Mengele-like method of lethal injection considerably more disturbing than any of the others. And anyway, if you're bound and determined to kill people, maybe you ought to face up to a little bit of grisly.

Beyond that, is it really so hard to find a lethal injection that works? Obviously I'm not a doctor, but I do know that there are plenty of meds that will very reliably knock you unconscious. And once you've done that, surely there are plenty of poisons to choose from? Or even asphyxiation: place a helium mask over the unconscious prisoner and he'll be painlessly dead in about ten minutes or less.

Can anyone point me to a readable but fairly comprehensive history of executions over the past few decades? When and why did lethal injection become the method of choice? Why does there seem to be only one particular cocktail that works effectively? Lots of people have asked the same questions I'm asking, but nothing I've ever read really seems to explain it adequately.

Look, if we're going to be ok with killing people, why are we so fucking squeamish about it? These aren't Palestinians, you know? And if we can't find a lethal injection drug that works, why can't we just give them 10 Ambiens and put a pillow over their faces. It works for serial killers.
I think the clinical aspect of injection appeals to the control freaks.
I'm fine with hanging or just pushing off a building top myself. However, it should all be done in public. Not as a deterrent, but because the state should do legitimate things in the open, unashamedly. Hiding it away makes it seem like they are doing something that they shouldn't.
The asshole shot a father and daughter and actually laughed about it as he did it. If he suffered a little, and that suffering was unintentional, I'm fine with it.
^ this. I find it strange that the execution has to be humane.

On the technical side, I am not sure why this new cocktail is used. I realize that European suppliers will no longer sell the drugs formerly used based on their moral stance.

However, there are drugs used everyday in operating rooms that can accomplish this task. In fact, animals are euthanized far easier with a different cocktail.

All it takes is one drug to stop breathing - a narcotic in high enough dose - and a drug to stop the heart, like potassium chloride.

By nature, narcotics are analgesics, so a massive bolus confers pain anaesthesia and hence pain suppression.

The gasping is merely a response to respiratory function shutting down. It is not a conscious act of the person to try and continue breathing.

600 gasps and two hours to complete the task suggests somebody doesn't have their shit together.
Let me be clear - I am neither arguing the humanity, nor the actual act itself. Merely the way in which its carried out, which seems to be more difficult than what Moses had to go through to part the seas.
Completely understand it. It is baffling why there have been so many screwed up executions when there are enough experts to provide consultation on how to do it with drugs that work and are easy to procure.
I have often advocated for prisoners to choose for voluntary executions. 40 year sentence and you decide you just can't hack it? Great. Bubba won't stop drilling your ass on your 25 year home invasion conviction? Do it.

I would take this a step further and advocate for all violent offending felons to be sterilized as part of the intake process. I know Susan Sarandon would freak out, but hey, less burdens on society when they get out.
I cannot support giving more power to the government. They'd "volunteer" everyone they didn't like and "violent" would soon be extended to include being late for child-support payments and the like.
I cannot support giving more power to the government. They'd "volunteer" everyone they didn't like and "violent" would soon be extended to include being late for child-support payments and the like.

Yeah, just a slight stretch this is.
i can no longer remember where i read this but someone once calculated the cost of the state putting someone to death versus incarcerating them for life. with all of the appeals and lawyer time, it is far cheaper to warehouse them.

so, we need some North American gulags. or just kill'em without worrying about if it is a humane death or not. or, just ask Ted Nugent to become the official US executioner and he can put an arrow through their heads.
Just do what the Chinese do. Hand the sentence out in the morning, carry out the execution in the evening. Then send the bullet to the deceased's family for the cost. I witnessed a public execution when I was younger, was actually pretty cool.
I actually think if we carry out executions more efficiently, people will be less likely to committee heinous crimes.

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