The Arizona inmate whose execution was temporarily delayed by a lawsuit seeking information about how the state administers the death penalty is scheduled to be executed Wednesday afternoon.
Joseph Wood and several other inmates sued Arizona saying the state was violating their First Amendment rights by withholding information about the manufacturers of the drugs used in the state's lethal injection process, how the process will be carried out, and the qualifications of those administering the drugs. The use of lethal injection to execute the condemned has come under increased scrutiny after recent botched executions and efforts by anti-death penalty activists to pressure drug companies not to provide the necessary drugs for execution.
Wood's case was unusual because it delayed an execution based on a request for information about the execution. Wood got a boost from a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals from the Ninth Circuit, which reversed a lower court ruling preventing the suit from going forward. Arizona tried to appeal to the full court, but the Ninth Circuit denied the request, prompting Chief Judge Alex Kozinski to muse about bringing back the firing squad.
The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit Tuesday afternoon and removed the injunction preventing his execution, allowing the state to put Wood to death as scheduled Wednesday afternoon. Wood is on death row after being convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1989.
Wood's attorneys are awaiting word on another possible case that could forestall Wood's execution. In a separate suit, Wood is arguing that he was ineffectively represented at sentencing, in part because his then-attorney failed to present evidence of brain damage and mental illness. With the execution set to begin in less than two hours, Wood's attorney Dale Baich is hoping the Supreme Court will intervene in time.
"Until the Supreme Court issues the final word, we're still hopeful," Baich said.