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Read the Lengthy Debate Over Whether to End Arizona's Botched Execution Read the Lengthy Debate Over Whether to End Arizona's Botched Executio...

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Read the Lengthy Debate Over Whether to End Arizona's Botched Execution

The federal court transcript shows just how terrifying and dramatic the nearly two-hour execution was.

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(Mike Simons/Getty Images)

A federal court judge in Arizona appeared uncertain about whether to halt the botched execution of Joseph Wood more than an hour after it began Wednesday, and unsure of the appropriate protocol for doing so, according to an official transcript of court proceedings released Thursday.

Wood was put to death Wednesday via a two-drug lethal injection, but it took nearly two hours for the state to pronounce him dead. The convicted double murderer gasped more than 600 times during the execution, according to witness reports.

 

As Wood remained alive on the gurney, his defense attorneys filed a motion for an emergency stay to the federal District Court asking that the state put the execution on hold.

The 30-minutes of proceedings began by telephone about 90 minutes after Wood's execution started, and concluded shortly after Wood's death was announced.

The transcripts shows the judge largely rejecting the concerns of Wood's defense attorneys on grounds that "it does appear to me that there is no serious risk of pain being experienced at this time." The judge also showed concern that acting to halt the execution could potentially create more suffering for Wood.

 

"We have to deal with degrees of uncertainty, but it does not appear that with lack of physical reaction there is pain," Judge Neil Wake explained. "I am also concerned that if it were possible to suspend this in a better circumstance, I would be disposed to do that if it did not create even more risk of pain. It is not appearing to me that that is a realistic possibility at this time."

Near the transcript's conclusion, Jeffrey Zick, representing the Arizona attorney general's office, stops in mid-thought to announced that Wood has died.

MR. ZICK: When the motion was filed, I believe his heart rate was above 20, but I can't verify that. All I know is that I was told his heart rate was 20 when I called the director based on the court's wish. Wait. I just—I'm sorry, Judge.

THE COURT: Go ahead.

 

MR. ZICK: I just learned that the IV team leader has confirmed Mr. Wood's death.

THE COURT: All right. Let me finish my thought, because it's my responsibility.

Judge Wake went on to say it was unclear whether attempting to halt the execution would result in more pain, or whether Wood was already experiencing pain.

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Below is a complete transcript of the deliberation.

 

Dale Baich, an attorney for Wood, on Thursday called for an independent investigation of the execution.

"It is premature for anyone to comment on what Mr. Wood experienced during the most prolonged bungled execution in recent history, which took place last night," Baich said in a statement. "There is far too much that we don't know at this point, including information about the drugs, why Arizona selected these drugs and amounts, the qualifications of the execution team, and more. 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. As Judge Wake said yesterday, during the hearing on the emergency stay of execution, he could not rule out that pain had occurred during Mr. Wood's execution, and that it was his intention that whatever happened to Mr. Wood should have a bearing on other death-row prisoners. This is precisely why an independent investigation is needed."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday that Wood did not appear to endure suffering during his execution. Another state official who witnessed the procedure said the death appeared surprisingly "peaceful."

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Excellent!"

Rick, Executive Director for Policy

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

I find them informative and appreciate the daily news updates and enjoy the humor as well."

Richard, VP of Government Affairs

Chock full of usable information on today's issues. "

Michael, Executive Director

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