UPDATE 3-Arizona inmate takes nearly two hours to die in execution

Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:46pm EDT

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(Recasts with two-hour execution)

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX, July 23 (Reuters) - An Arizona inmate took almost two hours to die by lethal injection and his lawyers said he "gasped and snorted" before succumbing in the latest botched execution to raise questions about the death penalty in the United States.

The execution of convicted double murderer Joseph Wood began at 1:52 p.m. local time at a state prison complex, and the 55-year-old was only pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., the Arizona attorney general's office said.

During that time, his lawyers filed an emergency appeal in federal court that sought to have the execution halted and their client given life-saving medical treatment.

The appeal said Wood had been "gasping and snorting for more than an hour," and that the procedure violated his constitutional right to be executed without suffering "cruel and unusual punishment."

Wood had been one of six death row inmates who sued Arizona last month arguing that secrecy surrounding the drugs used in other botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma violated their rights.

But on Wednesday the Arizona Supreme Court cleared the way for him to be put to death, lifting a hold after reviewing a last-minute appeal that involved demands for more information about the lethal drug cocktail to be used in the execution.

The execution had previously been put on hold by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said on Saturday that Wood could suffer "irreparable harm" unless the state divulged information about the drugs and the qualifications of the medical staff conducting the execution. (Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Grant McCool, Lisa Shumaker and Eric Walsh)

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