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Death row inmate wants execution delayed to determine source of lethal drugs

Changes approved for Arizona executions meet inmates’ demands

This is the execution room at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence. (File Photo)

A condemned prisoner wants his execution delayed until the state says where it got drugs that will be used to kill him, or after the investigation of a botched execution in Oklahoma is complete.

Attorney Julie Hall argued in a brief filed Monday with the Arizona Supreme Court that Joseph Woods III, who is convicted of killing his girlfriend and her father in 1989, needs the information on the drugs so he can legally challenge the execution. The court is going to consider whether to issue a death warrant for him on May 28.

Hall called the use of the drugs an experiment that has had problems in other states.
The Arizona Department of Corrections has refused to tell Woods the source of the drugs to be used, midazolam and hydromorphone, a sedative and pain killer respectively.

That drug combination was used for the first time in a U.S. execution Jan. 16 in Ohio. Witnesses said the prisoner’s death was prolonged and he seemed to struggle in his restraints and gasp for air.

Arizona has indicated it will double the dose given the Ohio inmate, Dennis McGuire.
Midazolam was used in a three-drug combination in the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which went terribly wrong.

Witnesses claim Lockett tried to sit up, writhed and convulsed on the gurney while he tried to speak. Executions are supposed to be carried out humanely and prisoners who were injected with drugs that are no longer available typically seemed to die peacefully.

“To date, three states have experimented with lethal-injection protocols using midazolam. Each state used a different experimental protocol, as each had reports of difficulties and abnormalities,” Hall wrote. “Ohio and Oklahoma were the worst.”

The state has until May 21 to respond to Woods’ brief.

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