AZ Witnesses Can See Entire Executions, Judge Rules

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A U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix has ruled that journalists and other witnesses will be able to see all aspects of executions by lethal injection carried out in Arizona, the Arizona Republic reports. State law requires that executions be witnessed by several groups of people, including officials, family members and five journalists. Until recently, the witnesses viewed the insertion of the catheters that carry the death drugs into the prisoner only over closed-circuit television.

In response to a suit by the Republic and other media outlets, Judge G. Murray Snow ordered that witnesses must now be allowed to see the condemned person enter the execution chamber and get strapped to the gurney. They will also be able to watch as the drugs are being administered from another room. During the state’s last execution, prison executioners shot 15 doses of drugs into prisoner Joseph Wood, when one was supposed to be fatal. Wood took nearly two hours to die because the drugs did not work as they were supposed to. He snorted and gasped on the execution table as witnesses watched, unaware that he was receiving multiple doses. Although executioners’ identities are protected by state statute, Snow said it would be possible to show the drugs being “pushed” on closed-circuit TV without revealing the identities of the people administering the drugs.

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