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Last Updated on: 3rd October 2023, 06:52 pm

Arizona, a state which has legalized the death penalty, has not executed any death row convicts since 2014. At that execution, a lethal injection procedure malfunctioned, causing an extended death process for the prisoner lasting over two hours. Arizona has now decided to refurbish its gas chamber, with the intention for executions to resume soon. This has raised some questions about the ethics of the gas chamber usage, especially as it evokes memories of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

It is believed that problems in finding lethal injection drugs to carry out executions led to the refurbishment and planned restart of Arizona’s gas chamber executions. Arizona’s gas chamber at its prison in Florence, just southeast of Phoenix, was secretly refurbished. Reportedly, Arizona has purchased materials to make hydrogen cyanide gas, a gas that was used in a pesticide known as Zyklon B used by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

Under current Arizona law, only death row inmates who committed crimes prior to November 23, 1992 have the option of choosing gas inhalation for execution rather than the state’s default method of execution, lethal injection. The Death Penalty Information Center notes that since 1976, seven states have used gas chamber executions 11 times. In addition to Arizona, these states include Alabama, California, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

When Was the Last Execution of a Death Row Inmate in Arizona?

In Arizona, the death penalty has been carried out through gas inhalation just twice. Once was in 1992, for the execution of Don Harding, convicted of murder. The other time was in 1999, for the execution of Walter LaGrand, also convicted of murder. During that last gas chamber execution, it took LaGrand 18 minutes to die.

The last time that a death row inmate was executed was, as mentioned above, in 2014. Joseph Rudolph Wood, who had been convicted of the 1989 murder of his girlfriend, Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene Dietz, was executed via lethal injection on July 23, 2014. Wood gasped and snorted for almost two hours and a half before being pronounced dead. This was referred to as a “botched” execution that should have taken just 10 minutes, and led to Arizona halting executions of prisoners on death row.


Who Are the Likely Candidates When Executions Resume in Arizona?

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona has said that he will soon seek execution warrants in two cases, both involving murders that took place prior to 1992. He has noted that he wants to make sure that the 21 people currently on Arizona’s death row whose appeals have been exhausted are executed before his term ends in 2023. Seventeen of those 21 inmates are eligible for gas inhalation as an execution method, should they so desire it.

Brnovich has said that he will first seek to execute Clarence Dixon, who was sentenced to death in 1978 for killing 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin in Maricopa County; and Frank Atwood, who received the death penalty for killing 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in Tucson in 1984.

Who Is Opposed to Executions Resuming in Arizona?

Many international groups have expressed their opposition to executions resuming in Arizona, particularly through the gas chamber method. The executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center has said that Arizona’s officials should have known that the gas chamber refurbishment would draw criticism and parallels to Nazi Germany. The American Jewish Committee has noted that whether or not one supports the death penalty, it is generally agreed that “a gas devised as a pesticide and used to eliminate Jews has no place in the administration of criminal justice.”

The best way to avoid becoming another death row statistic in Arizona is to have good criminal representation in defending you against the criminal charges you face. Contact our Arizona criminal defense law firm today to see how we can help you to receive the best possible outcome in your criminal case.