Lawyers Call for Outside Probe of ‘Bungled’ Arizona Execution

(Reuters) -

Lawyers for an Arizona killer who took two hours to die from a lethal injection demanded an outside review on Thursday of what they called a terribly “bungled” execution that has prompted renewed debate over the death penalty in the United States.

The complications in executing convicted double-murderer Joseph Wood on Wednesday in a procedure his lawyers complained was cloaked in secrecy came after two other lethal injections went awry earlier this year in Ohio and Oklahoma.

Corrections officials said Wood was never in pain during the execution at a prison southeast of Phoenix, but his lawyers said he struggled for breath for more than 90 minutes. An Arizona Republic reporter who witnessed the execution said the 55-year-old inmate gasped 660 times before falling silent.

Attorney Dale Baich called on Arizona to allow an independent investigation of what he called “the most prolonged bungled execution in recent history,” to determine among other things which drugs were used in what amounts.

“It is important for the people of Arizona to get answers, and only an independent investigation can provide the transparency needed following an execution cloaked in secrecy that went wrong,” Baich said.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer expressed concern over how long the procedure took and ordered a review by prison officials, but said justice had been done. A spokesman said Brewer was confident that an internal probe, which was expected to take several weeks, would be adequate.

No executions are scheduled for the immediate future in Arizona. Arizona has executed 37 people since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1992.