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Court Delays Man's Execution Over Lethal Drug Questions

An Arizona death row inmate sued after the state refused to disclose exactly which drugs and in what amounts would be used in his execution.

An appeals court Saturday stayed the execution of a convicted murderer in Arizona just four days before he was scheduled to be put to death — because the state won’t give the inmate details about the drugs it planned to use to execute him.

Joseph Wood, 55, argued that the state withholding details of the two-drug combination to be used in his execution, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, violated his First Amendment Rights. Wood’s public defender demanded the details in the wake of the botched June 29 execution in Oklahoma, in which an inmate was seen writhing in apparent agony before he died 43 minutes later, and the questions it raised about lethal injection, according to court documents.

“We, and the public, cannot meaningfully evaluate execution protocol cloaked in secrecy,” a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its 2-1 decision.

Wood was among five other death-row inmates who sued over concerns that executions would be carried out with the same drug used in the botched Oklahoma execution, midazolam.

Prosecutors said they would likely ask the full Ninth Circuit Court to hear the case.


— Phil Helsel and Tracy Connor