The 9th Circuit ruling in Wood v. Ryan, with Judge Kozinski's dissent is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"ARIZONA EXECUTION DRUG CASE HEADS TO SUPREME COURT," is by Astrid Galvan and Jim Salter of Associated Press.
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Arizona cannot execute a death row inmate without providing detailed information about the drugs intended for his lethal injection, a decision that prompted state officials to say they will take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The dispute centers on whether a man convicted of killing his estranged girlfriend and her father should have access to information the state of Arizona has refused to provide, and it comes amid nationwide scrutiny surrounding capital punishment and whether condemned inmates unduly suffer.
Arizona officials lost their attempt to overturn a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled recently that death row inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood, convicted in the 1989 shooting deaths, "raised serious questions" about whether he should have "access to lethal injection drug information and executioner qualifications."
The Los Angeles Times reports, "Federal appeals court refuses rehearing on Arizona execution case," by Michael Muskal.
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.
"Judge Kozinski: Bring Back the Firing Squad," is by Jacob Gershman at the Wall Street Journal Law blog.
One of the nation’s most prominent judges is urging states that have the death penalty to abandon lethal injection and switch to the “more primitive” but “foolproof” firing squad as their primary method of executing death-row inmates.
Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a blistering critique of lethal injection in a dissenting opinion in the death-penalty case of Joseph Wood, an Arizona convicted murderer whose July 23 execution was delayed by a Ninth Circuit panel on Saturday.
The court on Monday refused to rehear the case before the entire bench, letting stand a panel’s decision to hold up Mr. Wood’s execution until more was disclosed about the drugs and the executioners to be used in his lethal injection.
"Arizona execution remains on hold, could go to Supreme Court," is by Mark Berman for the Washington Post.
The full court did not offer an explanation for why it was declining to rehear the case. The panel of judges staying the execution had said that providing more information about how the death penalty is carried out is essential for both the public and the courts.
Both issues cited by the panel in its stay – the type of drugs used and the qualifications of the medical personnel involved — have been factors during executions this year. The two-drug combination that Arizona will use (medazolam and hydromorphone) was used in a January execution in Ohio that caused an inmate to choke, gasp and take nearly 25 minutes to die. Meanwhile, after an inmate grimaced and writhed during a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma, an independent autopsy found that the execution team failed to place the IV properly.
The Washington Post also reports, "Guillotine, firing squads better than lethal injection, says prominent federal judge," by Fred Barbash.
Kozinski let loose on the whole attempt, as he put it, to “mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments.”
Executions “are, in fact, nothing like that … and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality,” he wrote. If the state’s going to kill, it should at least do it effectively, he said.
“The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. And the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps. The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range,” he wrote in his dissent, “can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. There are plenty of people employed by the state who can pull the trigger and have the training to aim true.”
Unlike drugs used for lethal injections, he said, guns and ammunition are bought by the state “in massive quantities for law enforcement purposes, so it would be impossible to interdict the supply. And nobody can argue that the weapons are put to a purpose for which they were not intended,” as unlike medications, “firearms have no purpose other than destroying their targets.”
"Top judge attacks lethal injection as Arizona fails in death penalty appeal," is by Ed Pilkington for the Guardian.
One of America’s top judges has launched a dramatic attack on the use of medical drugs in executions, stating that the attempt to disguise the brutality of the death penalty by giving condemned prisoners the appearance of serenity in their final moments is “doomed to failure” and that the country should return to the firing squad.
The sharply-worded statement from Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the ninth circuit federal appeals court, came as the court on Monday denied Arizona’s attempt to challenge the postponement of an inmate’s execution over the secrecy of its capital punishment procedures. Arizona state officials say they will now appeal to the US supreme court.
Kozinski’s statement represents one of the most high-profile attacks on the US death penalty. It adds to the sense of crisis surrounding the sentence in the wake of a European-led boycott of lethal injection drugs that has forced states to adopt increasingly desperate measures including new drug protocols and secrecy laws.
In his statement, Kozinski says that the decision made in the 1970s to move from the traditional methods of judicial killing - such as the electric chair, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad – to lethal injections using medical drugs was misguided. “Subverting medicines meant to heal the human body to the opposite purpose was an enterprise doomed to failure,” he writes.
Additional coverage includes:
"U.S. court denies bid to reconsider stay of Arizona execution," by David Schwartz for Reuters, via the Chicago Tribune.
"Appeals Judge Says Guillotine 'Probably Best' for Executions," by Tracy Connor for NBC News.
"Kozinski dissent: ‘Firing squads can be messy’ but they are better than lethal injection," by Debra Cassens Weiss at the ABA Journal.
Courthouse News Service posts, "9th Circuit Puts Killer's Execution on Hold," by Tim Hull.
"Arizona Execution Postponed By Appeals Court," by Al Macias at Phoenix NPR station KJZZ-FM.
"The Death Penalty Is Becoming a First Amendment Issue," by Ben Richmond for Motherboard.
MSNBC has posted a video link from the Monday night's Rachel Maddow Show, "Execution drug secrecy blocked by court."
Michael Kiefer, senior reporter for the Arizona Republic, talks with Rachel Maddow about the significance of a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that Arizona must reveal the source of its execution drug before it can kill a prisoner with it.
Earlier coverage of the Arizona lethal injection challenge begins at the link.