Lawyer says Arizona inmate shook violently during execution

PHOENIX Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:30pm EDT

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - The lawyer for a convicted murderer executed in Arizona said on Thursday his client shook violently after a lethal injection drug was administered, and may call for an independent autopsy to determine if he experienced any pain.

A defiant Thomas Kemp, 63, was executed on Wednesday by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, for kidnapping and killing a Hispanic college student in 1992. His last words were: "I regret nothing."

Kemp's attorney Tim Gabrielsen, in a version of events disputed by a corrections department spokesman, said Kemp's upper body started to "shake violently" for around 5 or 6 seconds shortly after the fatal dose of pentobarbital was administered at 10:01 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 10:08.

"They used cowhide restraints at his wrists to tie him to the gurney ... the upper half of his body all started to shake violently, and there was tension being put on that cowhide restraint," Gabrielsen, who witnessed the execution, told Reuters.

"I don't know if he was conscious for that ... We are discussing whether an autopsy would establish if Mr. Kemp suffered pain unnecessarily," he added.

Gabrielsen said that, should an autopsy determine Kemp experienced pain in his final moments, he might add the findings to a civil suit questioning state execution protocols that was previously filed against Arizona.

Kemp, who was sentenced to death in 1993 for his role in snatching and killing Hector Soto Juarez, was the third inmate executed in Arizona this year.

The former trailer park maintenance man had consistently showed no remorse about the killing.

At his 1993 sentencing, Kemp said his only regret was not killing an accomplice, and he unleashed a tirade against Mexican immigrants and the legal system, saying his victim was "beneath my contempt."

Bill Lamoreaux, the spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections, also witnessed Kemp's execution and disputed Gabrielsen's testimony that Kemp's arm shook violently during the procedure.

"At the very beginning of the execution I noticed a slight twitching," Lamoreaux told Reuters, adding that Kemp "was offered a sedative, but he declined it."

"Additionally, it was cold in that room and he commented that it was chilly so we shut the air conditioner off and also provided him with a couple of blankets," he added.

Asked if he saw Kemp shaking violently, Lamoreaux replied: "His arm did twitch for maybe a couple of seconds. I saw the arm move a little bit." Asked if he would describe that twitching as violent, he replied: "I don't believe I would. No."

He had no comment on whether Kemp had felt any pain during the execution, and added that the procedure was in other respects no different from three other executions that he had witnessed in the state.

He said he had not previously seen an inmate's arm twitch "but everything else, absolutely. The heavier breathing and then, a couple of seconds, it looks like they are sleeping."

Amy Rezzonico, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, said the office had received no complaints or reports of anything out of the ordinary following the execution.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)

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