Ariz. Governor Orders Review After Execution Lasts 2 Hours
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Arizona's governor is ordering a probe of what went wrong during an execution today. It took nearly two hours for a lethal injection to kill Joseph Wood, a convicted murderer. Today's is the latest in the string of botched executions involving lethal injection. It also involves the latest case of a death row inmate who fought in court to reveal details about a controversial drug mixture used for executions. One of the witnesses to today's execution is Mauricio Marin. He's a reporter for Tucson News Now, and he joins us from the prison grounds in Florence, Arizona. And, Mauricio, first tell us what you saw in the execution chamber and how you could tell that something was going wrong.
MAURICIO MARIN: Well, good evening. Yeah, this was my first execution I've ever witnessed, and typically, from people I've talked with who have seen them before say that a lethal injection usually takes about 10 minutes. This one, as you mentioned, took nearly two hours. And you could see him at first sort of fall asleep. After that, you can see him gulping hundreds of times. I counted about 660 times. You can see him sort of gulping as he was sedated. You could also see his stomach and chest were moving at the same time during those certain gulps.
SIEGEL: Now, what was the controversy surrounding lethal injection drugs that were used in today's execution?
MARIN: So I spoke with Wood's attorney before the actual execution, and he told me first of all, the first time they used this drug in Ohio, it took the inmate several minutes to die - and if I'm not mistaken, the second time in Oklahoma. His big issue was that they were experimenting on Wood. Additionally, he was trying to get information from the state of Arizona about the manufacturers who create the drugs to make sure they were compliant with FDA rules.
SIEGEL: Now, those were the concerns voiced before the execution, which then took two hours. What was the reaction from prison officials to what actually happened?
MARIN: So sitting inside the witness chamber, looking at Wood being executed, I looked around. There appeared to be some concern from prison officials. Looking around, I saw at least four times, one of the medical staff coming in to check, make sure - checking on Wood's stats to see if his heart rate was beating, looking at his eyes. And then from Wood's attorney, I saw he sent out a staff member to run out and try to stop the actual execution halfway through.
SIEGEL: Now, Joseph Wood was convicted of murdering two people back in 1989. Just refresh us a bit here, what was the crime for which he was sentenced to death?
MARIN: That's correct. It was in 1989. He was, at the time, dating Debra Dietz, an estranged girlfriend after that because of an abusive relationship. So in 1989, he went to the mechanic's shop of Debra and Eugene Dietz, and he shot and killed them both.
SIEGEL: And how many years ago was he convicted of the double murder?
MARIN: He was convicted in the early '90s. I don't have the exact date. But something to mention from the family witnesses - the victims' family that we talked with today. They certainly said that this process was simply - took too long; 25 years, in fact, from the day that they were murdered outside that mechanic shop in Tucson, to finally see Wood executed. They are actually saying that he deserved more pain, if he felt any pain, during today's execution.
SIEGEL: Well, Mauricio, thank you very much.
MARIN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's reporter Mauricio Marin of Tucson News Now. He witnessed today's botched execution in Arizona, where it took nearly two hours for an inmate to die after a lethal injection.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.