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Arizona To Change Lethal Drug Combination That Was Used In Nearly 2-Hour Execution

The state Department of Corrections said it would no longer use the two-drug combination that took nearly two hours to kill inmate Joseph Wood in July.

Posted on December 22, 2014, at 4:47 p.m. ET

Arizona announced Monday it would change the two-drug protocol that was used in the nearly two-hour execution of Joseph Wood in July, the Associated Press reported.

AP Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections, File

In March, the Arizona Department of Corrections switched to a two-drug combination of the sedative midazolam with a morphine derivative, hydromorphone.

It took 15 doses of the lethal drugs to execute Wood in a procedure that lasted nearly two hours. Conflicting reports said Wood gasped for air hundreds of times during the execution.

Following an investigation into the prolonged execution, the state Department of Corrections on Monday said it would switch to drugs that were previously used in executions for several years until supplies were either exhausted or cut off by drug makers. Those drugs include pentobarbital and sodium pentothal, both of which are nearly obsolete because of boycotts by foreign drug manufacturers.

If those drugs are unavailable, the state said it would use a three-drug combination using potassium chloride and midazolam. Midazolam was also used in problematic executions in Ohio and Oklahoma.

The results of the investigation into Wood's death and the recommendations to change the drugs was released Monday by a three-member team that found the inmate was injected properly but reacted unexpectedly to the drugs.

Mike Fiala/AFP/File

"The report is clear that the execution of inmate Wood was handled in accordance with all department procedures, which, as the report states, either meet or exceed national standards," Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan wrote in a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer. "It was done appropriately and with the utmost professionalism."

Wood's attorney, however, has contended that his client's execution was botched. The state had put all executions on hold pending the release of the report.