Death Took an Hour and 57 Minutes

In a scene reminiscent of a botched execution in The Green Mile, “Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. local time, one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.”

He was, as asserted by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, executed “in a lawful manner.” That “he did not suffer” contrasts with an account by an Associated Press reporter that Joseph Rudolph Wood “gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and 40 minutes.”

Extending the “constitutional reach” of the Eighth Amendment a bit was the Governor’s statement that Wood’s lawful death was “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.”

See also:

The Eighth Amendment states:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

As despicable as the conduct of a death row inmate may have been, the applicable third portion of the Eighth Amendment to the Death Penalty (the “cruel and unusual punishments” portion) doesn’t refer to the condemned inmate’s behavior for which the death penalty has been sanctioned. It is not “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” retaliatory justice in which the punishmentmatches the injury. It does consider the type and manner of means of execution. See for instance the Diaz execution in Florida:

Department of Corrections initially claimed that Diaz felt no pain during the execution, but a coroner’s investigation belied that claim.

Eyewitness reports indicate that Diaz was still moving and attempting to speak (or, perhaps, scream) more than twenty minutes into the execution, suggesting that he was still conscious and in pain.

Jonathan Groner, associate professor of surgery at the Ohio State Medical School, echoed the sentiments of many medical experts who examined the Diaz execution: “It sounds like he was tortured to death.” Governor Jeb Bush ordered that all Florida executions be halted until problems with Florida’s lethal injection protocols could be addressed. California and Maryland soon issued similar moratoria on the use of lethal injection.

Governor Brewer has ordered a review of the state’s execution process pursuant to Woods’s execution. Let’s see where this goes as Arizona now joins other controversial cases involving executions by lethal injection.


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