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Why were executions on pause in Arizona for 8 years?

Death Penalty Arizona
Posted at 4:56 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 09:43:37-04

It was July 23, 2014 — a day Jeanne Brown and her family will never forget. It was the day the man convicted of killing her sister and her father in Tucson in 1989 was executed for his crime.

"You don't know what excruciating is," Brown said during a news conference immediately following the execution. "What's excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood and seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood. That's excruciating. This man deserved it."

Joseph Wood, who was convicted of killing Debra and Eugene Dietz, was put to death that day, in what many have referred to as a "botched execution."

Experts say executions should take roughly 10 to 15 minutes, but this one took much longer.

"It was an hour and 57 minutes," explains Dale Baich, a former federal public defender who witnessed the execution.

Baich's team represented Wood for the final three months of his life.

"A reporter counted over 640 gasps and gulps during the execution. It was watching someone struggling to breathe."

RELATED: First execution since 2014 raises questions of ethics

To date, Baich has witnessed the executions of 15 of his clients, 11 of which were in Arizona. Leading up to Wednesday's scheduled execution of Clarence Dixon, Baich says he has a number of concerns.

Nick Ciletti: "How confident are you?"

Dale Baich: "I have questions."

"At the end of the day, people can describe that execution as they want, but I ultimately believe justice was done," explains Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who was not in office when Wood was executed. "At the end of the day, there is a lot of focus on the defendants, but let's not forget there is a victim involved here and there is a victim's family involved."

After Wood's execution, then-Governor Jan Brewer ordered an investigation, part of it playing out in court, but a 2020 ruling paved the way for executions to begin again.

So what has changed?

First, the Department of Corrections will use a drug called "pentobarbital" this time, which is different than the drug used in 2014.

Second, microphones are allowed inside the chamber where the execution is taking place and will be left on so witnesses can hear what is happening.

Third, the supplies of the drugs will be kept confidential.