Intravenous lines were placed correctly during the execution of an Arizona inmate whose death with lethal drugs took more than 90 minutes, a medical examiner said Monday.
Incorrect placement of lines can inject drugs into soft tissue instead of the blood stream, but the drugs used to kill Joseph Wood went into the veins of his arms, said Gregory Hess of the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.
That's happened before. Most recently, apparently, in Oklahoma where the folks trying to kill Clayton Lockett missed the veins and pumped the drugs into his body tissue. It didn't work, and, if the reports are accurate, he died of a heart attack after they gave up for the day the effort to kill him. It's not all that surprising that they screw up that way. The killers, after all, aren't medical professionals. They aren't anesthesiologists. They're prison guards.
And all too often they demonstrate, as they did in Oklahoma in April, and as they have several times in Ohio, that they're incompetent.
But not in Arizona. Not this time, anyway. Not for Joseph Wood last week Nor for Dennis McGuire in Ohio back in January.
They did what they were supposed to do. Followed orders to stick needles in the veins and pump them full of drugs that will kill. And yet.
Hess also told The Associated Press that he found no unexplained injuries or anything else out of the ordinary when he examined the body of Wood, who gasped and snorted Wednesday more than 600 times before he was pronounced dead.
An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January.
So what happened? What is it that led to the cock ups in Ohio and Arizona?
I mean, this shit is supposed to work. That's the promise, after all. No, we're not experimenting with new murder techniques. We're using top medical advice for clinical executions. Sure we can't use the drugs we want because nobody'll sell them to us. (And what's wrong with those drug manufacturers that want their drugs to be used for healing not killing?) But these are supposed to be just as good. Midazolam followed by hydromorphone. The combo in Ohio and Arizona.
And see, there's the answer. Because if it isn't incompetence, then it's the drugs. Which are, after all, third string. Plan C, as it were.
Tennessee's bringing back the chair which states stopped using because it was sure as hell looking like the courts were all going to start finding the chair to violate the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Other states are talking about the firing squad or maybe hanging. Maybe it's time to return to drawing and quartering? Or crucifixion.
Because if the horrors of what happened to Joseph Wood and Dennis McGuire weren't due to incompetence, then there's a bigger problem.
Even when we know what we're doing, it doesn't work.