San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday postponed the Wednesday execution of an Arizona death convict until the source of the lethal injection drug to be used on him and the qualification of the executioner in administering it are revealed.
The three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favor of Joseph Wood’s attorneys’ lawsuit argument that their client had a First Amendment right to know the supplier of the drugs that will be used to kill him and the qualifications of the executioners who will carry it out.
A new two-drug combination that includes a Valium relative called Midazolam are to be used in the execution of Wood, 55, because European pharmaceuticals refuse to sell pentobarbital to the U.S. However, an execution in Ohio in January using midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone became controversial because it took 24 minutes for convicted killer and rapist Dennis McGuire to die and he appeared to choke for about 10 minutes after the drugs were injected.
The state is refusing to reveal the names of the drugs supplier and executioner citing a statute that make the identity of executioners anonymous. When Woods’ lawyers sued before the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, the latter sided with the state. The case was elevated to the 9th Circuit, which recognized the “importance of providing specific and detailed information about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered.”
“We, and the public, cannot meaningfully evaluate execution protocol cloaked in secrecy,” the majority wrote, according to Azcentral.com. “It is in the public’s interest that Wood’s injunction be granted.”
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office will appeal the decision. If the state complies and turns over the information by Wednesday, the execution proceeds. The warrant for Wood’s execution expires on Thursday.