Death Penalty

Inmate in two-hour execution got 15 times the standard dose of drugs, records disclose


Execution records show that the death-row inmate whose execution lasted nearly two hours got 15 times the standard lethal-injection dose.

Executioners gave convicted double murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood 50 milligrams each of the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone, then injected him with that dose 14 more times during the execution, for a total of 750 milligrams, report the Arizona Republic and the New York Times. The execution protocol calls for the initial dose, and allows the corrections director to authorize a second dose if the inmate is still alive after two or three minutes, the Arizona Republic says.

Dale Baich, an assistant public defender who represented Wood, said in a statement that the execution logs “show that the experimental drug protocol did not work as promised.” One journalist who witnessed Wood’s July 23 execution said the inmate’s breathing was similar to a “fish on shore gulping for air.”

A statement issued by the Department of Corrections differs with that assessment. “The records provided today show that [Charles Ryan, director of the corrections department], continually conferred with the IV team, and directed additional midazolam and hydromorphone to be administered ensuring the inmate remained deeply sedated throughout the process, and did not endure pain,” the statement says.

The department said the repeated doses were legal under state law authorizing “an intravenous injection of substance or substances in lethal quantity sufficient to cause death.”

The corrections department also said a licensed medical doctor was part of the execution team. Ryan has ordered an independent review of the execution.

According to the Arizona Republic, the sedative midazolam has been used in three other executions in which the inmates appeared to gasp for air and the process took longer than usual.

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