A controversial execution drug is on trial in Phoenix U.S. District Court. Plaintiffs against the use of Midazolam want that banned for good from the State’s execution protocol. But attorneys for the state want the lawsuit dismissed because Midazolam is unavailable. However, plaintiff’s attorney

Mark Haddad says that’s too risky a stance for their case. He says, since the Corrections Department has not made a vow to discontinue use of the drug still gives the agency discretion to continue using it should it become available again.

Haddad says Midazolam ended inmate Joseph Wood’s life in an ugly way in 2014. A typical execution takes about 10 minutes to complete, however, it took almost two hours for him to die with his last moments spent gulping and gasping hundreds of times on the gurney. And Haddad says, that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution. Two other inmates, including one in Oklahoma, experienced prolonged deaths as well as they were being administered a cocktail including Midazolam. Their executions were carried out before Wood’s.

The Arizona Corrections Department has 30 days to explain in writing why the litigation should stop, then plaintiffs attorneys will respond.

–Barbara Villa