Speed Reads

Capital Punishment

Arizona accused of botching execution

Lawyers for Joseph Wood, a death row inmate in Arizona, claim that the state botched his execution on Wednesday afternoon, painfully dragging out his death for about two hours. Wood was "gasping and snorting for more than an hour," said the lawyers, who tried to stay his execution once it became apparent that things were going awry.

The bungled execution follows a similar incident in April, when Oklahoma used an untested lethal injection cocktail on inmate Clayton Lockett, essentially causing his heart to explode, according to Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic. Wood had reportedly received a little-used cocktail:

His attorneys had argued earlier that the execution should be held until he could learn more about the drugs that would be used. Arizona planned to use a two-drug combination — medazolam and hydromorphone — that had only been used once before in an execution. (That episode, a lethal injection in Ohio, lasted for nearly 25 minutes and also involved the inmate snorting and gasping.) [The Washington Post]

The spate in botched executions stems from a shortage of the drugs traditionally used in lethal injections, after the European Union, the main source of the drugs, imposed limits on their export.