Less than 10 minutes into his execution, Arizona death row inmate Joseph Wood was still gasping for air. Typically the procedure lasts five to 10 minutes, so when Wood did not die, he was injected 15 more times. Nearly two hours later, he was pronounced dead.

The 2014 death of Wood came after the high profile case of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, who took 43 minutes to die. Witnesses say he writhed, groaned, convulsed and attempted to speak during the procedure. 

Lockett’s family filed a lawsuit against the state alleging he was tortured. But a federal judge dismissed their claims, saying it was “an isolated mishap”. However, this hasn’t been the only incident to take place in the country. Stories like these have prompted some death row inmates and their lawyers to challenge the use of the drug midazolam, a sedative used during the lethal injection procedure. In June, the Supreme Court ruled the drug did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Oklahoma is set to execute Richard Glossip on Wednesday by lethal injection. Glossip and his lawyer are calling for a different cocktail to be used. However, states are having difficulty obtaining drugs as many pharmaceutical companies have refused to associate their products with executing people. This has resulted in some states obtaining lethal drugs secretly, sometimes resorting to untested alternatives. We’ll look at executions gone wrong and why some states struggle to obtain a more effective lethal injection cocktail for death row inmates.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Michael Kiefer @michaelbkiefer
Staff reporter, Arizona Republic

Christine McClaine 
Sister of executed death row inmate

Megan Mccracken
Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel, University of California-Berkeley Death Penalty Clinic

Reginald Wilkinson 
Former warden, Dayton Ohio Correctional Facility

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