The drawn-out execution of an Arizona man has set off more public debate over the death penalty and will lead to new court battles over states’ efforts to keep details about their lethal-injection practices secret, the Wall Street Journal reports. The execution of Joseph R. Wood III on Wednesday in Florence, Az., took nearly two hours and was marked by lengthy, repeated bouts of labored breathing on the part of Wood. The 55-year-old was convicted of shooting to death his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989.
It was at least the third lethal injection in the U.S. this year to raise significant questions about executions. Critics said the execution underscored systemic problems. “It’s more evidence that the death penalty has become an embarrassing spectacle,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. Others see such concerns as vastly overblown. “This was not a cruel execution,” said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty. “The execution carried out the judgment handed down by the legal system, and the inmate was sedated the whole time.” (Arizona Corrections Director denied that the execution was botched, saying, “there is no medical or forensic evidence to date that supports that conclusion. In fact, the evidence gathered thus far supports the opposite,” The Arizona Republic reports.)