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Arizona execution botched

PHOENIX (CN) — It took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute convicted murderer Joseph Wood on Wednesday, leading the state's governor to call for a "full review of the process."

Wood's lawyers attempted to stop the execution after it began at 1:52 p.m., saying in an emergency motion in the 9th Circuit that the condemned man had "been gasping and snorting for more than an hour."

"At 2:03 his mouth moved," the motion states. "Mr. Wood has continued to breathe since that time. He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour."

Staff reportedly "rechecked for sedation" at 3:02 p.m. and discovered that Wood was still alive.

"This execution has violated Mr. Wood's Eighth Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment," Wood's attorneys said.

Media witnesses reported that Wood gasped for air "more than 600 times during the execution."

He was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m.

"I am concerned by the length of time it took for the administered drug protocol to complete the lawful execution of the convicted double murderer, Joseph Wood," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement Wednesday. "While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process."

Anti-death penalty advocates decried the "botched" execution as just one more example of the inadequacy of current lethal-injection protocols, which some states adopted after the preferred drug, sodium thiopental, became unavailable in 2011.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne in March announced the state's adoption of a two-drug execution protocol using midazolam and hydromorphone but said the manufacturer would be kept secret under the state's confidentiality law.

Declining to credit Wood's argument that the state had violated his rights under the First Amendment in failing to disclose the manufacturer of the drugs and the qualifications of the executioners, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake in Phoenix denied Wood a preliminary injunction earlier this month.

Though the 9th Circuit later reversed, finding "serious" First-Amendment questions about the secrecy, the execution proceeded as scheduled with a subsequent reversal by the Supreme Court.

"This was the fourth reported botched execution of the year," Mark White, former Texas governor and co-chair of The Constitution Project's Death Penalty Committee, said in a statement. "And in each one of these cases, the government has concealed vital information concerning the source, safety, and efficacy of the drugs to be used in the execution, refused to reveal information concerning the training and skill of the personnel involved in carrying out the execution, while also using drugs never before used to kill humans. Meanwhile, the courts continue to look the other way."

Wood was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murders of Debra and Eugene Dietz in Tucson.

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