Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Arizona corrections Director Charles Ryan said Thursday that the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood in Florence was not botched, despite media reports. / Nick Oza, The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX - The director of the Arizona Department of Corrections said Thursday that the two-hour-long execution of death-row prisoner Joseph Rudolph Wood on Wednesday was not "botched" and called media reports to that effect "premature and erroneous."

But while Wood was gulping and snorting and dying on the execution gurney, Corrections Director Charles Ryan was on the phone with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, and he already had consulted with the general counsel of the Department of Corrections.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Zick was talking to Ryan when he was interrupted by a call from the U.S. District Court after Wood's attorney, Robin Konrad, pleaded with a federal judge to stop the execution, according to a transcript of the telephone hearing.

Zick told U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake that there was no point in stopping the execution, that Wood had been given a second dose of drugs and that the doctor conducting the execution had told Ryan that Wood was already brain-dead.

He called Wood's reported gasping and struggling for breath "an involuntary reaction" and said that "Mr. Wood is effectively brain-dead and that this is the type of reaction one gets if they were taken off of life support. The brain stem is working, but there's no brain activity."

Wake asked if that opinion was verified by electronic monitoring equipment, and Zick said he did not believe it was.

"Well, if there are not monitors connected with him, if it's just a visual observation, that is very concerning as not being adequate," Wake said.

Zick told the judge that Wood was not in pain and that his heart rate was dropping. Before the half-hour-long phone call was over, Wood was dead.

The execution stirred national controversy because of the length of time it took. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the news site Politico on Wednesday that it was a "bollixed-up situation" that amounted to "torture."

"I believe in the death penalty for certain crimes," he said. "But that is not an acceptable way of carrying it out. And the people who were responsible should be held responsible."

In the weeks before the execution, Wood's attorneys had filed lawsuits and obtained temporary stays of execution that were lifted by the U.S. and Arizona Supreme Courts.

The attorneys wanted more information about the execution team's medical qualifications and about the drug cocktail that was used in the execution.

One of the drugs, a Valium relative called midazolam, had been used in three states in what one court euphemistically called "flawed" executions.

But Arizona officials assured the courts that the drugs would work and that they should not be required to turn over information about its origins or about the qualifications of the medical team.

But the drugs did not work as planned. Executions generally take about 10 minutes, but the drugs usually used in the past are no longer available from pharmaceutical companies, which have refused to provide them for executions.That has forced state departments of corrections to experiment with new drugs, such as midazolam.

Wood, who murdered his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene, in Tucson in 1989, gasped and snored in a marathon execution that lasted nearly two hours from when the drugs began to flow into his veins to the finish.

Gov. Jan Brewer called for a review of the incident. Wake ordered tissue and blood samples to be taken. The Arizona Supreme Court ordered that the drug vials and their labels be preserved.

An autopsy was conducted by the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, which concluded that the intravenous needles were properly placed.

On Thursday afternoon, Ryan read a prepared statement.

"Media reports, some of which were made prior to any information officially being released on the day of the execution, reached the premature and erroneous conclusion that the execution was 'botched,' " he said.

"This is pure conjecture because there is no medical or forensic evidence to date that supports that conclusion. In fact, the evidence gathered thus far supports the opposite."

Wood was "comatose and never in pain," Ryan said. He said he is "committed to a thorough, transparent and comprehensive review."

Ryan would not answer any questions from reporters.

Reached afterwardfor comment, Konrad questioned Ryan's certainty that Wood was brain-dead.

"That's just a visual observation," she said, citing the lack of an electroencephalograph in the execution chamber.

"Without an EEG, they can't definitively say he was brain-dead," Konrad said. "It could be true, but there's no way to say without monitoring brain waves."

She said she was taken aback by Ryan's assertion that the execution was not botched. "The idea it was botched is based on the two-hour time," she said.

Zick countered her argument. "At least, at present, there's no evidence he suffered, and that's the Eighth Amendment standard."

The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

Zick said that the state will not seek any warrants for execution until the review of this execution is completed. He did not preclude the possible future use of midazolam in executions.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Ariz. officials deny execution was botched

More In

test

Real Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers in central Ohio.

GET DEALS | COUPONS

Things To Do

SUN
23
MON
24
TUE
25
WED
26
THU
27
FRI
28
SAT
29

CLASSIFIEDS

Classifieds from across Central Ohio
Lancaster
Chillicothe
Newark
Marion
Bucyrus
Mansfield
Zanesville
Coshocton

Weeklies & Shoppers

10TV Headlines

Dispatch Headlines

METROMIX