Arizona inmate received 15 doses of lethal injection before he died

BY Xander Landen  August 3, 2014 at 12:33 PM EST
Documents released on Friday reveal that Joseph Wood received a total dose of lethal medication that is 15 times higher than what the state of Arizona recommends for executions.  Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers via Getty Images

A “death chamber” is shown in Huntsville, TX. Documents released on Friday reveal that convicted murderer Joseph Wood received a total dose of lethal medication that is 15 times higher than what the state of Arizona, where he was executed, recommends for executions. Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers via Getty Images

Documents released by the State of Arizona on Friday reveal that Joseph R. Wood III, an Arizona inmate who was executed over a period of nearly two hours last month, was injected with 15 times the recommended dosage of lethal medication before he died.

According to Wood’s attorney, Dale Baich, Arizona’s execution protocol calls for 50 milligrams of the painkiller hydromorphone, and 50 milligrams of the sedative midazolam to be used in lethal injections. Wood received 750 milligrams of each drug.

In a statement, the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Charles Ryan, said that additional doses were given to Wood to ensure that he was constantly sedated.

“The inmate’s sedation level was continually monitored and verified by the IV team,” he said.

But some medical experts say that using higher doses of these lethal drugs won’t aid the process of an execution.

“It doesn’t matter if you give the person 500 additional doses or five million doses. It won’t have any more effect,” Dr. Joel Zivot, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University Hospital told The New York Times.

Wood’s lawyers have called the execution “botched” and have insisted that an investigation by a nongovernmental entity should be required.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, said she has already started an internal review of the state’s execution process. In the mean time Arizona’s attorney general has ordered a temporary halt to all executions in the state.

The Arizona Department of Corrections estimated that it would take 10 minutes for Wood to die, but instead the process lasted for an hour and 53 minutes. Some witnesses to the execution say Wood suffered and gasped for air over 600 times. Others deny these claims.

“There was no gasping of air. There was snoring,” Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general’s office told the L.A. Times. “He just laid there. It was quite peaceful.”

Wood’s execution is the third this year that has called into question the use of lethal injection on inmates.

In April, convicted killer Dennis McGuire reportedly began to gasp after he was administered an injection in Ohio, which led his family to call for a ban on executions in the state.

Calvin Lockett, a convicted killer and rapist in Oklahoma also reacted unexpectedly to his injections. Instead of becoming paralyzed, Lockett clenched his teeth, tried to raise his head and died of a heart attack 43 minutes later.

“If they’re going to continue, they can’t have this failure rate in dealing with human subjects in the way that they are,” Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the L.A. Times.