Federal appeals court refuses rehearing on Arizona execution case


A federal appeals court has denied Arizona a rehearing in a capital punishment case, setting the stage for the state to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

In a ruling made public on Monday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Arizona’s request for the full court to review a ruling by a three-judge panel that put off the execution of Joseph Rudolf Wood. The panel on Saturday had granted Wood’s request to delay his Wednesday execution until Arizona revealed details on the two-drug cocktail that will be used.

Arizona is expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the stay of execution.

Wood, 55, had been scheduled to die for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, in Tucson.


In seeking a delay, Wood’s lawyers had argued that their client had a right to know which drugs would be used in the execution and how the state had developed its protocol for administering a lethal injection. The lawyers maintained that Wood had a 1st Amendment right to such information.

“The 9th Circuit has correctly recognized the importance of the information Joseph Wood seeks. Without greater transparency from the state, it’s impossible for the public to engage in informed debate, which is the cornerstone of democracy. We look forward to Arizona’s compliance with this ruling,” Dale Baich, Wood’s attorney, said in a statement on Monday.

Dissenting from the 9th Circuit’s decision not grant the rehearing, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote: “I have little doubt that the Supreme Court will thwart this latest attempt to interfere with the State of Arizona’s efforts to carry out its lawful sentence and bring Wood to justice for the heinous crimes he committed a quarter-century ago.”

As manufacturers have stopped producing drugs for executing inmates, states have had difficulties securing the needed chemicals and developing a protocol that would allow capital punishment without violating the U.S. Constitution.

The process has become more controversial since Oklahoma botched the execution of an inmate on April 29. Clayton Lockett writhed, grimaced and tried to lift his head after the injections, prompting officials to call off the execution. Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began. That episode raised questions about the procedures and chemicals used.

Attorneys for Arizona contend there is no 1st Amendment right to the information Wood is seeking.


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