This past Wednesday the state of Arizona carried out a botched execution on Joseph Wood, a man convicted of double murder in 1989. Wood was sentenced to death after being found guilty of killing both his ex-girlfriend and her father. The state of Arizona killed him through the use of a lethal combination of two drugs that should have taken roughly ten minutes to kill him. Yet, the cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone caused him to gasp for over an hour after receiving the injection. He choked and snorted. This inarguably violated Wood’s right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment as prescribed in the Eighth Amendment.
Arizona elected to ignore the lessons of two other botched executions, one in Oklahoma and one in Ohio. While there is no denying the atrocities these men committed, this cannot justify the states’ deliberate disregard for the standards of human decency. This, in the face of dwindling global support for the death penalty.

How did we get to this point? Drugs used in the past are no longer available because manufacturers refuse to sell them for the purpose of executing a human being. The veil of secrecy surrounding the source of the drugs and their dosage, in addition to the level of training of those administering them contributed to the disastrous results we witnessed in Ohio, Oklahoma, and now Arizona. Given the fact that investigations into what went wrong are still open, the state of Arizona had no business moving forward with Wood’s execution.

Moreover, the state’s decision to execute Wood is reminiscent of other executions that resulted in state-sponsored killings of innocents. According to the Death Row documentary One for Ten, for every ten people executed there is one that is exonerated due to the unreliable application of the death penalty. In other words, many cases are rushed, not properly defended by court-appointed attorneys, or exhibited racial and class biases. There are alternatives to the death penalty that not only cost less than state-sponsored executions, but may also lead to real deterrence to crime. In order to ensure proper administration of justice and use our state’s limited resources wisely, Pennsylvania should abolish the death penalty.

Jessica Kirshner
Student at The College of New Jersey