The execution by lethal injection for convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III went on as scheduled on July 23 amid complaints and concerns that the new components comprising the drug cocktail used in Arizona’s executions are still shrouded in secrecy. Adding fuel to the fire regarding the controversy surrounding the new lethal injections, Wood’s execution left him gasping for air for nearly two hours yesterday before he finally died.
The 55-year-old Wood has been on death row since being sentenced on July 2, 1991 for the 1989 shooting murders of his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, and her father, Gene Dietz, according to ABC News. Wood had been found guilty of those two first-degree murders in February 1991.
USA Today reported that about an hour into Wood’s botched execution yesterday, his defense team filed an emergency motion for a stay of execution. The motion stated that Wood had been “gasping and snorting for more than an hour" following his lethal injection.
Wood’s injection was administered at 1:53 p.m. Four minutes later, he lost consciousness. By 2:05 p.m., according to reporter Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic, Wood began gasping for air. Another reporter said that Wood’s execution, which should have only lasted about ten minutes, was "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air." Keifer said that he counted the number of times Wood gasped for air.
"I counted about 660 times he gasped," Kiefer said.
"That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49," Kiefer said.
A separate report from ABC shared that the family members of Wood’s murder victims showed little to no remorse for the death throes that Wood endured for almost two hours. Jeanne Brown, whose sister and father were shot to death by Wood, listened to Wood’s last words and witnessed his execution from her place in the gallery at the Arizona State Prison Complex. Responding to complaints from Wood’s legal team that the convicted murderer suffered throughout the duration of his execution, Brown said:
"You don't know what excruciating is."
"Excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood. That's excruciating. This man deserved it."
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer released a statement yesterday saying she was concerned about the length of time it took for Wood to be executed. Brewer said that “she has ordered the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process.” For more on Wood's execution, see the video accompanying this article.