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Condemned man's US execution takes nearly two hours: official

A death row inmate being executed in Arizona took nearly two hours to die, prison officials said Wednesday (July 23), in the latest controversy to hit America's lethal injection regime.

WASHINGTON: A death row inmate being executed in Arizona took nearly two hours to die, prison officials said Wednesday (July 23), in the latest controversy to hit America's lethal injection regime.

The attorney representing Joseph Wood, convicted in 1989 of the murders of his girlfriend and her father, said his client died an agonising death after being injected with a cocktail of medications that were supposed to quietly snuff out his life. "It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and forty minutes," attorney Dale Baich said after the execution in the southwestern US state.

Wood finally died at 3:49 pm local time (2249 GMT) -- almost two hours after officials began injecting him with drugs that should have taken his life in a matter of minutes, prison officials said.

Baich said in a statement that Wood had been injected with a mixture of two drugs -- midazolam combined with hydromorphone -- an experimental cocktail that badly failed. "Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror -- a bungled execution," the attorney wrote. "The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent."

Wood, 55, was sentenced to die for the 1989 shooting deaths of his 29-year-old former girlfriend Debbie Dietz and her father Gene, 55. He had filed a court petition challenging his execution, in which he demanded to know more about the state's lethal injection method, the executioner's qualifications and the manufacturer of the lethal drugs.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals had placed a hold on Wood's execution, demanding more information from Arizona. Wood's final legal recourse, the US Supreme Court, on Tuesday refused to hear his appeal, clearing the way for officials in Arizona proceed with his execution.

He is one of several inmates to resort to the courts to seek greater transparency about the method being used to put them to death, amid concern about the efficacy of the lethal drug protocol, especially following a recent botched execution in Oklahoma which saw an inmate appear to suffer before he died.

Oklahoma suspended its executions for six months after the April death of convicted killer and rapist Clayton Lockett by lethal injection -- a process that took 43 minutes, far more than the expected time of about 10 minutes. The Death Penalty Information Center, in a statement on Tuesday, charged that the high court's decision "allows drug secrecy to continue." Individual US states may choose whether they will implement the death penalty.

Those that carry out executions have relied increasingly on compounding pharmacies, which lack federal approval, since European drugmakers refused to provide products used to execute inmates. Wednesday's execution was the 26th in the United States, and the first in Arizona since October.

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