It was clear from the outset that Arizona’s execution of death row inmate Jeffrey Landrigan wouldn’t be a smooth process.
Among the obstacles were a stay ordered Monday by a federal judge over unanswered questions about Arizona’s supply of one of the execution drugs, and a three-judge appellate court panel that upheld the ruling early Tuesday. State officials tried to get the stay lifted so they could implement the execution warrant issued by the Arizona Supreme Court for the 1989 murder of Phoenix resident Chester Dyer.
The execution warrant was in effect for 24 hours starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and the state moved ahead with preparations for the injection procedure at a state prison in Florence. It would ultimately be 12 hours later that Landrigan was pronounced dead.
By Tuesday morning, the prison was on lockdown in preparation for the execution, with the inmates confined to their cells and housing areas. Department of Corrections officials said it was abnormally quiet.
The 23 witnesses — public officials, journalists, victim advocates and people associated with Landrigan or the victim of a homicide he committed in Oklahoma — had to report to the prison by 7:30 a.m. The witnesses were sequestered in separate rooms in buildings outside the prison.
“It could be a wait,” said Tara Diaz, a deputy warden and one of the media witnesses’ escorts.
At least one of two Landrigan’s lawyers among his chosen five witnesses was allowed personal electronic gear to keep tabs on the ongoing developments in distant courts. Other witnesses were kept incommunicado.
Department officials said that was intended to make it easier to whisk the prescreened witnesses into the prison and eventually the death house without another security check once the actual execution timeline started.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been away from my Blackberry this long,” media witness Lorraine Rivera of Tucson television station KVOA said about 15 minutes into the sequestration.
Outside the prison, other journalists waited in a dusty parking lot for word on whether the execution would occur. Department officials updated the sequestered witnesses regarding the legal proceedings — first that a larger panel of appellate court judges was considering the case, later that the panel kept the stay intact, and, finally, that the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the stay.
The one-page ruling said Landrigan’s lawyers hadn’t proved their claim that Landrigan was at risk of being administered an ineffective knockout drug.
“Obviously this execution is a go,” Corrections Director Charles Ryan told the media witnesses at approximately 8:30 p.m.
Landrigan, laying under a white sheet nearly up to his collar on a bed-like structure, looked at the witnesses when the curtains to the viewing room opened. He seemed to gesture to those he invited and his last words included thanks to his relatives and friends.
Throughout the execution, whimpers and exhales could be heard from the screened-off area occupied by those witnesses.
As the drugs started flowing, Landrigan didn’t appear to move during the procedure. His eyes slowly closed, and his lips parted slightly once he was unconscious.
“It is confirmed that the inmate is sedated,” Ryan announced midway through the execution. Injection of the second and third drugs then began.
The execution took about 10 minutes. At its end, Ryan told the witnesses that Landrigan had died at 10:26 p.m., or approximately 12 hours later than anticipated under the original timeline.
The longest previous delay that Ryan could recall was one of 3 to 4 hours for an execution in 1999, department spokesman Barrett Marson said.