| June 12
June 12 Arizona has agreed to scrap paralytic
drugs from its lethal injection mix and allow witnesses to see
more of the execution procedure under an overhaul of the state's
death penalty practices, a lawyer for death row inmates said on
The changes are part of a settlement announced on Monday in
federal court in Phoenix in a 2014 lawsuit brought by seven
death row inmates who argued Arizona's lethal injection
practices were experimental, secretive and caused inmates
Dale Baich, a lawyer for the litigants in the case, said the
settlement agreement must be approved by a federal judge.
Representatives for Arizona's attorney general and the state
Department of Corrections could not be reached to comment.
Baich said the agreement, if approved, would mark the first
time a U.S. state had agreed to such major changes in its drug
protocol and execution procedures because of prisoners'
"The state is taking appropriate steps to decrease the risk
that prisoners will be tortured to death," he said.
Under the settlement, Arizona agreed not to use paralytic
drugs, which lawyers for the inmates argued hid signs of
consciousness and suffering during executions.
The state also agreed to limit the authority of the director
of the department of corrections to change execution drugs, and
allow a prisoner time to challenge any drug changes, Baich said.
States have been scrambling to find chemicals for lethal
injection mixes after U.S. and European pharmaceutical makers
placed a sales ban in recent years on drugs for executions
because of ethical concerns.
In December, Arizona agreed in the same case to stop using
the valium-like sedative midazolam, or related products, as a
part of a drug protocol for lethal injections.
Midazolam has been used in troubled executions in Arizona,
Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma. In some instances, witnesses said
convicted murderers twisted on gurneys before dying.
It was also used along with a narcotic in Arizona's last
execution, which was for convicted murderer Joseph Wood in 2014.
Wood was seen gasping for air during a nearly two-hour
procedure where he received 15 rounds of drug injections. Lethal
injections typically result in death in a matter of minutes.
Arizona also agreed under the settlement to allow greater
transparency by letting witnesses view more of the execution
process, including the moment the executioner administers the
drugs intravenously, Baich said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Additional reporting
by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Peter Cooney)