According to the first-hand account of the AP reporter/witness of Arizona's state-sanctioned killing of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood this afternoon:
About 10 minutes later, the gasping began.
Wood's jaw dropped, his chest expanded, and he let out a gasp. The gasps repeated every five to 12 seconds. They went on and on, hundreds of times. An administrator checked on him a half-dozen times. He could be heard snoring loudly when an administrator turned on a microphone to inform the gallery that Wood was still sedated, despite the audible sounds.
As the episode dragged on, Wood's lawyers frantically drew up an emergency legal appeal, asking federal and state courts to step in and stop the execution.
"He has been gasping for more than an hour," the lawyers pleaded in their filings. "He is still alive."
The Arizona Supreme Court convened an impromptu telephone hearing with a defense lawyer and attorney for the state to decide what to do.
Wood took his last breath at 3:37 p.m. Twelve minutes later, Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan declared Wood dead. The state court was informed of the death while its hearing was underway.
It took one hour and 57 minutes for the execution to be completed, and Wood was gasping for more than an hour and a half of that time.
The spokesperson for the AZ Attorney General, however, was "surprised by how peaceful it was"...
"I haven't given a statement but the claims being made by the media witnesses and defense attorneys is not accurate in my opinion," she told National Journal in an email. "He went to sleep, and looked to be snoring. This was my first execution and I was surprised by how peaceful it was. There was absolutely no snorting or gasping for air."
Richard Dieter, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center, flatly rejected the suggestion that Wood did not suffer, and cast blame on Arizona for not exercising more caution in its protocol given recent problems with lethal drugs obtained from unidentified manufacturers.
"The facts speak for themselves," Dieter said Wednesday night. "I don't think Arizona ever intended to put someone on a gurney for two hours squirming and grunting."
Dieter added that Arizona had "ample warning" that the drugs used in its execution could prove problematic, especially given the recent controversy in Oklahoma. The particular combination of drugs used Wednesday night have only been used in an execution once before in Ohio, where Dennis McGuire reportedly convulsed and gasped for 25 minutes before being pronounced dead.
Wood had attempted to stave off his death sentence by arguing that Arizona was violating his First Amendment right to know the identity of the supplier of the state's two-drug lethal injection cocktail.
A federal Appeals Court had ruled in Wood's favor before the Supreme Court denied the stay Tuesday.
The condemned man's attorney agreed with the disturbing account of the Associated Press reporter/witness, but U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy didn't seem to care...
Word that Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the appeal came about a half hour after Wood's death.
Wood, 55, gasped more than 600 times before he died.
The Arizona Republic reporter/witness concurred with AP and disagreed with the AG's office. He said that he "counted about 660 times" that Wood gasped for air during the gruesome two-hour ordeal before being pronounced dead.
For those Constitutional conservatives who may not have it handy, the exact text of its 8th Amendment, adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791, reads: