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Botched execution took almost two hours

America’s death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail.

Convicted killer Joseph Wood gasped and snorted during the 117 minutes it took him to die on Wednesday after he was injected with a relatively untested combination of the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone, witnesses and his lawyers said.

It usually takes 10 minutes to put an inmate to death using a lethal injection.

It was the second botched execution in the United States so far this year, prompting outrage from death penalty abolitionists and critics.

“He gasped and struggled to breathe,” attorney Dale Baich said after the execution in the southwestern US state.

So drawn out was the procedure that Wood’s lawyers fielded an emergency motion during the execution to try to cut it short and revive their client.

Killed girlfriend and her father

Wood had been convicted for the 1989 murders of his girlfriend Debbie Dietz and her father Gene.

But the victims’ family rejected claims that Wood had died an agonizing death.

“You don’t know what excruciating is. What’s excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood,” Jeanne Brown told reporters.

“That’s excruciating. This man deserved it. I don’t believe he was gasping for air. I don’t believe he was suffering. Sounded to me as though he was snoring.”

Court challenge

Wood was 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.

Outrage grew after another execution went awry in Oklahoma in April, with the inmate appearing to suffer before he died.

Wednesday’s execution was the 26th in the United States, and the first in Arizona since October. - AFP