Joseph Rudolph Wood / AP
PHOENIX - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday knocked down a stay of execution for Arizona Death Row prisoner Joseph Wood, who is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday morning at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence.
Wood 55, was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend and her father in Tucson in 1989.
The Arizona Department of Corrections intends to execute him with a controversial drug called midazolam, which was used in three flawed executions earlier this year in which the dying inmates appeared to suffer respiratory distress. Arizona also frequently uses a controversial method of administering drugs that was at the center of a botched execution in April in Oklahoma, in which the condemned man writhed in pain for more than 40 minutes before dying of an apparent heart attack.
Wood's lawyers filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the execution unless the state provided them with information about the qualifications of the executioners and the origin of the drugs to be used in the execution. A U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix denied the request. However, on Saturday afternoon, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Wood had a First Amendment right to the information and imposed a conditional stay that could be vacated if the state turned over the information.
The 9th Circuit refused a state request to lift the stay; so the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted the stay without comment.
State officials said, in court filings, that they need to maintain secrecy because publicity has made it more difficult to obtain the drugs needed to carry out executions. Drug manufacturers have begun refusing to sell to departments of corrections, forcing the departments to experiment with new and less reliable drugs or to special order them from compounding pharmacies, which in turn are harassed by anti-death-penalty activists.
Wood's attorneys at the Federal Public Defender's Office maintain that the secrecy allows the state to act with impunity. They have sued the state numerous times demanding transparency, and a lawsuit over the current information requests continues in District Court.
Wood was born in Texas in 1958 and grew up in Missouri and Tucson. He spent six years in the U.S. Air Force, but mustered out with a serious alcohol problem and emotional problems that may have been exacerbated by a series of head injuries he'd suffered in car and motorcycle accidents.
In 1989, he was living with Debra Dietz, who supported him and paid for the apartment they shared. But Wood was abusive, and when Dietz moved out of the apartment, he began stalking her.
On Aug. 7, 1989, Wood became enraged when Dietz wouldn't take his calls, so he went to the auto-body shop where she worked for her father, Eugene.
Eugene Dietz was on the phone when Wood reached the body shop. Wood waited for him to hang up and then shot him in the chest without saying a word.
Wood left the shop, then returned, struggled with Eugene's brother briefly, and then hunted down Debra Dietz and shot her twice in the chest at close range.
A police officer who witnessed the first shooting from her patrol car outside the shop called for backup. Wood pointed his gun at the responding police officers, who shot him several times.
Copyright 2014USA TODAY
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