Prison Officials Violated Protocol by Giving 15 Doses of Lethal-Injection Drug, Attorney Says

Convicted murderer Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of lethal-injection drugs during the course of an execution that lasted nearly two hours on July 23.

This appears to be a violation of the state's lethal-injection protocol, which says "an additional dose of the lethal chemical(s)" may be used if the first dose doesn't work.

"There's nothing in the protocol that allows for 13 additional doses of the drug to be administered," Wood's attorney Dale Baich tells New Times.

See also:
-Governor, Prison Chief Claim There Was No Suffering in 2-Hour Execution

The Arizona Department of Corrections released records related to Wood's execution, revealing the 15 doses of hydromorphone and 50 milligrams of midazolam were needed to kill Wood, for killing his estranged girlfriend and her father 25 years ago. The execution was the first in Arizona using those two drugs.

"It was an experiment that failed," Baich says. "The [Arizona] Department of Corrections said that one dose was sufficient to carry out the execution, and it was wrong."

Reporters who witnessed the execution described Wood gasping for air hundreds of times, although Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan says Wood was unconscious the entire time and never in pain.

However, as Wood failed to die, his attorneys attempted to get a judge to halt the execution. Wood's condition continued to deteriorate as attorneys were on the phone with the federal judge, and Wood eventually died before the judge made his ruling to let the execution continue.

However, it wasn't revealed to Baich until a few days ago that it had taken 15 doses to kill Wood.

Despite Baich's belief that only two doses are allowed, the Department of Corrections sent us a statement saying the doses were within protocol:

These records indicate the length of the procedure and the amount of drugs administered comply with the department's mandate under state law to administer " intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death, under the supervision of the state department of corrections." (A.R.S. § 13-757(A))
Here's exactly what the department's policy on extra injections states:
5. If, after three minutes, the inmate remains conscious, the IV Team shall communicate this information to the Director, along with all IV Team input. The Director will determine how to proceed or, if necessary, to start the procedure over at a later time or stand down. The Director may direct the curtains to the witness viewing room be closed, and, if necessary, for witnesses to be removed from the facility.

6. If deemed appropriate, the Director may instruct the Special Operations Team to administer an additional dose of the lethal chemical(s) followed by the Heparin/Saline flush.
We asked the Department of Corrections spokesman about the department's policy regarding the doses, and Ryan's apparent decision not to stop the execution, despite having the power to do so.

Spokesman Doug Nick tells us he has nothing to add, other than a statement released to the media that says there will be an independent review of the execution, and states that, "The administration of these drugs is permitted under Department Order 710." (That's the same order that appears to say only one additional dose may be used.)

Again, the department's statement insists that Wood "remained deeply sedated throughout the process, and did not endure pain."

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley