Supreme Court OKs Drug Secrecy in Ariz. Execution
Joseph Wood's 1st Amendment case turned down
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2014 2:22 AM CDT
This photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood.    (AP Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections, File)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court has cleared the way for Arizona to execute an inmate whose lawyers argued that he had a right to know more about how he was to be killed. The court sided with the state against Joseph Rudolph Wood, who could be executed as soon as this morning, reports the AP. The 55-year-old, who murdered his girlfriend and her father in 1989, argued that he had a First Amendment right to know the source of the drugs that would be used to execute him, and to know the qualifications of his executioners.

The court lifted a stay granted by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals without addressing the First Amendment issue, the Arizona Republic reports. "The secrecy which Arizona fought tooth and nail to protect is harmful to our democracy because it prevents the public, the courts, and the condemned from knowing if executions are carried out in compliance with all state and federal laws," Wood's lawyer said. The issue of lethal-injection drug secrecy has been in the spotlight since a botched execution in Oklahoma earlier this year. Wood's case received more attention after a Ninth Circuit judge wrote a blistering dissent, calling the current capital-punishment system "inherently flawed" and arguing for a return to firing squads.

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Jul 23, 2014 4:23 PM CDT
Only two millionaires in the U.S. have received the death penalty. Both were crime bosses. Prosecutors often don't even pursue the death penalty against the rich--think O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Phil Spector, and John du Pont (of the chemical du Ponts). You needn't hire a Johnnie Cochran or a Clarence Darrow to get the treatment. An analysis of Georgia cases showed that prosecutors were almost twice as likely to ask for the death penalty when the defendant couldn't afford a lawyer. Nationwide an estimated 90-plus percent of those arrested for capital crimes are too poor to retain experienced private counsel. In Kentucky, a quarter of death row inmates were defended by lawyers who were later disbarred (or resigned to avoid disbarment); other states are similar. A few states have offices dedicated to providing a proper defense for capital defendants, but a Texas jurist summed up the attitude elsewhere: "The Constitution does not say that the lawyer has to be awake."
Jul 23, 2014 12:19 PM CDT
Big Pharma has to love the idea of Americans having no right to know what they are selling to put into our bodies.
Jul 23, 2014 11:47 AM CDT
For 25 years this dude has been able to get visits, phone calls and letters from his family. The victims families can only visit a grave. Put him to sleep already.