A judge is scheduled to consider a request Wednesday to postpone the July 23 execution of an Arizona death row inmate until officials reveal details about the two-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.
Inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood’s lawyers say prison officials violated their client’s constitutional rights by refusing to provide detailed information about his upcoming execution, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.
Attorneys for the state say there is no First Amendment right to the information Wood seeks and that the courts have consistently found that prisoners have no rights to such details.
The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January when an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.
The Oklahoma inmate writhed on the gurney after he was given a three-drug combination. The execution was stopped after a doctor determined there was a problem with an IV in the inmate’s groin. The Ohio execution was the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.
Arizona prison officials intend on using the same drugs — the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone — as were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.
Wood, now 55, is scheduled to be executed in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.
Wood and Debra Dietz had a tumultuous relationship in which he periodically assaulted her. Wood fatally shot Dietz’s father in the chest. His former girlfriend was on the phone calling for help when Wood grabbed her around the neck and shot her in the chest. Wood acknowledged his role in the killings but said they weren’t premeditated.
Wood’s lawyers said the information on the drug combination is necessary in determining whether his execution would violate his constitutional rights. They alleged the state’s lethal injection procedures constitute an experiment on death row inmates.
Attorneys for the state say the drugs that will be used in Wood’s execution are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that state law protects the identity of the drugs’ sources.