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Execution exceeds dosage by 15 times

Posted: August 3, 2014 at 3:31 a.m.

TUCSON, Ariz. — During the nearly two hours it took for an Arizona death row inmate to die last month, executioners injected him with 15 times the amount of a sedative and a painkiller that they originally intended to use, according to documents released Friday.

Records released to Joseph Rudolph Wood’s attorneys show he was administered midazolam and hydromorphone in 50-milligram increments 15 times between 1:53 and 3:45 p.m., for a total of 750 milligrams of each drug. He was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. after gasping more than 600 times while he lay on the table.

Arizona’s execution protocol calls for 50 milligrams of each drug, although some states use as much as 500 milligrams of midazolam in their execution procedures.

“Those are pretty staggering amounts of medication. They did not shortchange in the dose,” said Karen Sibert, a longtime anesthesiologist and spokesman for the California Society of Anesthesiologists.

Wood’s attorney, Dale Baich, said the dosage details show why an independent investigation of Wood’s execution by a nongovernmental authority is necessary.

“The Arizona execution protocol explicitly states that a prisoner will be executed using 50 milligrams of hydromorphone and 50 milligrams of midazolam,” he said in a written statement. “The execution logs released today by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows that the experimental drug protocol did not work as promised.”

Arizona officials say Wood, who was convicted of a 1989 double-murder, never suffered and was completely sedated, but his attorney called it a “horrifically botched execution” that should have taken 10 minutes.

Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of the state’s execution process, saying she’s concerned by how long it took for the drug protocol to kill Wood. The Arizona Department of Corrections said Friday that it is seeking an outside investigator for the inquiry.

Wood’s July 23 execution renewed debate over the death penalty and the efficacy of lethal injection. It was the third execution to go awry in the U.S. this year.

An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren’t being administered properly.

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