The Arizona Supreme Court on May 28 set the date for the state’s next execution even as a federal judge in Ohio delayed executions there on the previous day to hash out the constitutionality of a two-drug combination both states use for lethal injections.
Joseph Wood III, a Tucson man convicted in the 1989 murders of a girlfriend and her father, is set to die July 23. Even though he has run out of appeals in his criminal case, he can still file suit in federal court to challenge the execution, a strategy used by previous condemned prisoners in Arizona.
Wood’s attorney, Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, declined to say what his client’s next legal move is, but he said they are still waiting for responses from the Arizona Department of Corrections to questions they posed about the source of the drugs and the qualifications of the execution team.
The department plans to use Midazolam and Hydromorphone, a sedative and pain killer respectively, to execute Wood. Ohio was the first state to use that drug combination in an execution, which left the prisoner, Dennis McGuire, seemingly gasping for air and struggling in his restraints for a prolonged time on Jan. 16.
Attorney General Tom Horne said the state is going to use a higher dosage than in the McGuire execution, and Ohio has since stated it will also boost its dosage for future executions.
Judge Gregory Frost, of U.S. District Court in Columbus, put a hold on Ohio’s scheduled executions in July and August so attorneys can argue over the increased dosage.