24 Jul 2014

Botched injection prompts calls for new execution methods

A US man was left gasping for air for almost two hours after his lethal injection execution went wrong, leading to calls for the return of the firing squad.

lethan injection bed

Joseph Wood, 55, was sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1991. His execution began at 1.52pm MST yesterday at an Arizona state prison complex. He was pronounced dead at 3:49pm MST.

An Arizona Republic journalist who witnessed the execution said he counted the inmate gasping for breath about 660 times.

“I just know it was not efficient,” said the reporter, Michael Kiefer. “It took a long time.”

It is the third lethal injection execution in the USA to go wrong this year. In Ohio in January, the execution of convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire took around 25 minutes to complete. McGuire reportedly gasped for air and convulsed throughout.

In April, convicted killer Clayton Lockett writhed in pain after a needle became dislodged during his lethal injection at a state prison in Oklahoma. The execution was halted, but Locket died 30 minutes later of a heart attack.

The latest botched execution has prompted some death penalty supporters to call for other methods of execution to be used, including the electric chair and firing squads.

Senior US judge Alex Kozinski criticised the lethal injection prior to Wood’s execution. He wrote: “The firing squad strikes me as the most promising.

“Eight or 10 large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time.”

Whilst the spotlight is currently on America, human rights charities are keen to point out that inhumane executions are carried out around the world.

According to Amnesty International, beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting are all still used as execution methods around the world.

The only executions still in Europe – Belarus, 2014

Belarus, a former Soviet state and key ally of Russia, is the only country in Europe that still uses the death penalty.

Amnesty reported that Belarus has executed two men so far this year. In April, Pavel Selyun and Rygor Yuzepchuk were secretely killed in Belarusian prisons in secret.

Death sentences in Belarus are carried out without warning, and family members are not informed until afterwards. Prisoners are forced to their knees in their cell and then shot in the back of the head.

Hanging survivor – Iran, 2013

A 37-year-old convicted drug smuggler, Alireza M, was found alive in a morgue after he was hanged at a jail in Iran.

The man was left to hang for 12 minutes, after which a doctor declared him dead.

But when his family went to collect his body the next day, he was found to be still breathing. Alireza was sentenced to hanging for a second time, but ministers intervened and he was allowed to live.

cruxcified man

Crucifixion – Yemen, 2012

Saleh Ahmed Saleh al-Jamli was found guilty of planting electronic devices in vehicles, supposedly to enable US drones to kill Islamist commanders. He was tried and sentenced to crucifixion by a “religious court” run by Islamist groups affiliated to al Qaeda.

Footage obtained by amnesty confirmed that his body was crucified in the town of Ja’ar for all to see. Residents reported that the crucified body remained by a road for several days.

Beheading – Saudi Arabia, 2009

Muhammad Basheer bin Sa’oud al-Ramaly al-Shammari was convicted of kidnapping and raping four people in February 2009.

He was beheaded in the Saudi Arabian city of Hail. His severed head was then sewn back on to his body, which was later hung from a pole in a public place.