For Kini Seawright, and all the other women who bury a loved one due to police or prison violence...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Journalist Keifer witnesses Wood's execution; urges independent inquiry.

Very thorough coverage of the botched execution of Joseph Wood, which was witnessed by AZ Republic journalist Michael Keifer, as well as the family of Joseph Wood's victims, who I do feel for. Both have something to say about the execution in the video clip below.

I have no idea why Jan Brewer continues to employ Director Charles Ryan at the AZ Department of Corrections. Those prisoners of his who are in for minor offenses are being beaten and killed by gangs - effectively punished with death - while  the condemned are being medically tortured. The last condemned Arizona prisoner who died succumbed to untreated throat cancer before he could be executed...he might have preferred the drug cocktail instead. Three men on death row committed suicide last year, as well

Hmm. Yes, I must say that all is certainly not well on Arizona's Death Row.

Meanwhile Debra Milke was released from death row at ASPC-Perryville last year when her conviction was overturned after 23 years of imprisonment. That was due to evidence that she was convicted on testimony of a dirty, lying cop who likely perjured himself saying she confessed to having her son murdered when he interrogated her. Guess it's a good thing that we hadn't yet gotten around to killing her before we made absolutely sure she was prosecuted justly...


Execution of Arizona murderer takes nearly 2 hours

Bob Ortega, Michael Kiefer and Mariana Dale

The Republic |  

12:24 a.m. MST July 24, 2014

The controversial drug that Arizona used to execute double-murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood on Wednesday took nearly two hours to kill him and left him snorting and gasping for breath. One reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden of Fox 10 News, said it was "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air. At a certain point, you wondered whether he was ever going to die." State officials and the victims' families, however, took issue with other witness descriptions, saying that Wood was not conscious after the first few minutes and that the noises he made sounded like snoring.

The drawn-out execution — most take about 10 minutes — quickly drew international attention and criticism, spurring calls for a moratorium on executions and putting Arizona front and center in the contentious debate over lethal-injection drugs.

RELATED: Emergency motion for stay

The process at the state prison in Florence began about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and dragged on long enough that, more than an hour after the execution started, Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office sent two other lawyers out to file an emergency motion asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt it, saying it violated Wood's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. The motion noted that Wood "has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour" after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

Wood died before the appeals court responded.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne declined to comment. His spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, disputed that Wood snorted or gasped for air. "He went to sleep and appeared to be snoring," she said. "This was my first execution, and I was surprised at how peaceful it was."

Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 murders of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz.

The victims' family members said the media were wrong to focus on the execution method rather than on the victims. "Everybody here said it was excruciating," said Jeanne Brown, Debra Dietz's sister. "You don't know what excruciating is. Seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood, that's excruciating."

Her husband, Richard Brown, who said he witnessed the murders, said, "What I've seen today, you guys are blowing this all out of proportion about these drugs.

"Why didn't we give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him some Drano? These people that are on death row, they deserve to suffer a little bit."

Across the country, a majority of Americans support the death penalty, but that support appears to be waning.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey indicated that 55 percent of U.S. adults favor the practice, while 37 percent oppose it, a big drop from two years earlier, when 62 percent said they favored the death penalty for murder convictions and 31 percent opposed it.

Wednesday's execution began at 1:53 p.m., after Wood's last words, in which he thanked his attorneys, said he had found Christ and concluded, "May God forgive all of you."

According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood's arms. Wood was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.
"I counted about 640 times he gasped," Kiefer said. "That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49. ... I just know it was not efficient. It took a long time."

The length of the process drew swift condemnation from death-penalty critics.

"The worst part about Joseph Wood's botched execution was, it was entirely predictable and avoidable," Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition To Abolish the Death Penalty, said in a statement noting that the same combination of drugs had been used in a problematic execution in Ohio earlier this year.

That was echoed by the Arizona director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Arizona had clear warnings from Ohio and Oklahoma," said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, calling for a moratorium on executions. "Instead of ensuring that a similar outcome was avoided here, our state officials cloaked the plans for Mr. Wood's death in secrecy."
The latest petition initially was filed in Pima County Superior Court after a federal appellate court's stay was lifted Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court. It argued that Wood had ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial, and also challenged Arizona's lethal-injection protocol and the drug cocktail used in executions.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lee dismissed Wood's first argument, but sent the question of Arizona's lethal-injection protocol to the state high court.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Arizona's veil of secrecy around its lethal-injection drugs, permitting plans for the execution to proceed.

The high-court ruling knocked down a federal appeals court decision that the execution could not move forward unless the state turned over information about how the execution would be carried out.

Executions are public events. But 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.

"Prisoners who are sentenced to death for their crimes have every right to know what drugs are going to be used," said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, "but it would be a bad matter of policy if the manufacturer of these drugs were identified. The very reason we have a new drug protocol is because of the pressure and threats applied to the companies ... forcing them to stop making it."

It was not the first time the Supreme Court has ruled against a stay of execution based on drug secrecy. In 2010, it ruled against an Arizona prisoner asserting his right to know about lethal-injection drugs that turned out to have been improperly obtained from overseas.

The U.S. District and Circuit Courts in Washington, D.C., later determined federal law had been violated, which the Arizona Attorney General's Office denies.

"In most respects, what Mr. Wood is asking for is quite small," said Megan McCracken, a former federal defender who works with the University of California-Berkeley Death Penalty Clinic. "I think they don't want to set precedent about giving out information, and they don't want to come under scrutiny."

Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, called the execution barbaric and said: "This one is really on (Brewer's) shoulders. She can sign an executive order, put a stay on executions and let the Legislature find a better way to deal with violent criminals who deserve the maximum penalty, but one that is not cruel and unusual."

Dan Peitzmeyer, president of Phoenix-based Death Penalty Alternatives, said, "Actions like this might not cause us to totally repeal the death penalty. But it should sure as hell cause us to bring a moratorium to it and take a sincere look at what we're doing."

Executions by lethal injection using barbiturates such as pentobarbital more typically take about 10 minutes. But the European and American manufacturers refuse to supply it for executions. With the drug unavailable for death penalties, Arizona became the latest of four states to turn to another sedative, midazolam, first used for execution less than a year ago.

Arizona used it in combination with a narcotic, hydromorphone. Midazolam, by itself or with hydromorphone, has led to flawed, drawn-out executions in three other states.

Wood's attorneys had fought its use before the U.S. Supreme Court and then in a last-minute appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, saying the drug was "experimental" and had not been proven to be effective.

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

One day earlier, it was uncertain whether the execution would go forward. Wood's attorneys had filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the execution unless Arizona revealed where it had obtained the midazolam and divulged the qualifications of the medical team that would administer it.

In October and January, midazolam was used in executions in other states. Both times, witnesses said that the condemned prisoners appeared to gasp for breath and took longer to die than with the barbiturates that were used until they became unavailable.

And in April, an Oklahoma inmate was executed using the drug, but the medical person inserting the catheter into a groin artery completely punctured it, sending the drug into the soft tissue beneath. The man writhed in pain for more than 40 minutes before dying of an apparent heart attack.

Wood's attorneys asked for information with those incidents in mind. A U.S. District Court judge denied a stay. But on Saturday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted it, with the condition that it would be vacated if the state turned over the information. The Arizona Attorney General's Office appealed the 9th Circuit ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court threw it out Tuesday afternoon.

Wood chose not to have a special "last meal" Tuesday night, instead eating the sausage and mashed potatoes that the rest of the prisoners were served.

In 1989, Wood was living with Debra Dietz, who supported him and paid for the apartment they shared. But Wood was abusive, and after Dietz moved out of the apartment, he stalked her.

On Aug. 7, 1989, Wood became enraged when Dietz wouldn't take his calls. He went to the auto body shop where Dietz worked for her father. Eugene Dietz was on the phone when Wood reached the body shop; Wood waited for him to hang up and then shot him in the chest without saying a word.

Wood then hunted down Debra Dietz and shot her twice in the chest.

Megan Finnerty and Megan Cassidy contributed to this article.