July 24, 2014 10:02 am

Should we worry about ‘botched’ executions?

WATCH ABOVE:Arizona’s governor says she is ordering a review of the state’s execution process after it took a condemned inmate almost two hours to die Wednesday. 

TORONTO –  The lawyer for a man executed yesterday in Arizona said the lethal injection should have taken 10 minutes  but instead took nearly two hours.

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Witnesses said convicted killer Joseph Wood gasped hundreds of times after the lethal injection was administered.

The brother-in-law of one of Wood’s two victims says he’s fine with how Wood died, saying “death-row inmates deserve to suffer a little bit.”

READ MORE: Arizona execution lasts almost 2 hours

Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer said she’s ordering a full review of the state’s execution process.

In April, a three-drug combination left inmate Clayton Lockett writhing in pain before officials noticed a vein had ruptured in his arm and halted his execution.  Lockett was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999 after she and a friend arrived at a home the men were robbing.

He died a short time later of a heart attack.

READ MORE: U.S. inmate dies of heart attack after botched execution

The latest botched execution has fuelled even more debate about the ability of states to administer lethal injections that meet the U.S. Constitution’s requirement they be neither cruel nor unusual punishment.

But should we even worry about botched executions?

‘Execution was lawful’

In a statement Wednesday, Brewer said that although she is concerned over how long the lethal injection process took and has ordered a full review, “justice had been done and the execution was lawful.”

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” said the Republican governor. “This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims, and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

READ MORE: Masking death penalty’s violence increases suffering, Arizona execution shows

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and a half. During the gasps, his jaw dropped and his chest expanded and contracted.

‘Cruel and unusual punishment’

On social media, many voiced their own opinions regarding the latest ‘botched’ executions.

Boston Globe‘s global correspondent Austin Sarat says that to some supporters of the death penalty, the search for a painless way of killing those who kill may even seem paradoxical and says that advocates might see a painful death as “fair punishment.”

In his piece What botched executions tell us about the death penalty,‘  he refers to Arlene Blanchard, a survivor of Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, who at the time of McVeigh’s execution said, “Death by injection is ‘too good’ for McVeigh….I know it sounds uncivilized, but I want him to experience just a little of the pain and torture that he has put us through.”

READ MORE: Should death row inmate Ronald Phillips be allowed to donate organs?

Sarat, however, argues that the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” applies to the death penalty as well, and that “no matter how vile their crime, no one has been formally sentenced to die by slow strangulation, or by decapitation, or by burning to death. And at no point in recent history has an American legislature, judge, or jury acted on the view that it’s acceptable to put criminals to death in an overtly uncivilized way.”

“However it is interpreted, our Constitution commits us to exercise restraint in dealing with even the most heinous criminals and to insure that the ultimate punishment does not devolve into torture,” he wrote.

In an interview with The Associated Press, death penalty opponent Bryan Brooks said botched execution were “rather ironic.”

It’s rather ironic because the whole issue about the legal battle over the drugs themselves and whether or not they could be used in such an execution, that it would cause a quick death, that would be compatible with, that it would not be a form of cruel and unusual punishment, so then for death to occur under these circumstances is certainly interesting to say the least,” he said.

Are death row inmates entitled to know source of execution drugs?

In June, Wood was one of several prisoners who sued Arizona after arguing that secrecy surrounding the drugs used in other botched executions, such as those in Ohio and Oklahoma, was a violation of their rights.

READ MORE: Ohio’s longest execution points to flaws in lethal injection

The director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project agrees.

“It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure,” said Cassandra Stubbs in a statement.

Lockett  had also sued the state of Oklahoma for refusing to disclose details about the execution drugs, including where Oklahoma obtained them.

Days before Lockett’s execution, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said there is a longstanding precedent that the source of the execution drugs should remain confidential to avoid “intimidation used by defense counsel and other anti-death penalty groups.”

“These death row inmates have not contested their guilt for murdering two innocent victims nor have they contested their sentences of death,” Pruitt said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The legal wrangling of the attorneys for Lockett and Warner has served only to delay their punishment for the heinous crimes they committed.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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