Arizona will change drugs used in executions

2014-12-23 09:34

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Tucson - Arizona officials have said they are changing the drugs they use in executions after an inmate in July gasped repeatedly over the course of nearly two hours while being put to death.

Arizona no longer will use the combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a pain killer, according to a letter to Governor Jan Brewer from department of corrections director Charles Ryan.

The move comes as states have been scrambling to find new combinations of lethal drugs after European pharmaceutical companies restricted their distribution. Several prolonged executions this year have sparked debate over lethal injections in particular and executions in general.

Arizona will try to obtain sodium pentothal, the powerful but obsolete sedative that was used in most lethal injections in Arizona until it became difficult to obtain, and, sodium pentobarbital.

If the state cannot obtain those drugs, it will use a three-drug combination that includes midazolam and potassium chloride, among others.

The 23 July execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her father, called into question the efficacy of the drugs used after it took nearly two hours for Wood to die. He gasped over and over before taking his final breath and was given 15 doses of the drugs.

Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, says the execution was botched.

But results from an independent investigation conducted by a group of former corrections directors and experts found no protocols were broken, that the state properly trained its execution team, and that Wood was injected properly but did not react to the drugs as expected.

The three-member team recommended the changes to the drugs used. The results were released on Monday.

"The report is clear that the execution of inmate Wood was handled in accordance with all department procedures, which, as the report states, either meet or exceed national standards," Ryan said in a statement.

"It was done appropriately and with the utmost professionalism."

Baich says he has not received a copy of the report but would review it as soon as it became available.

Read more on:    us  |  human rights
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