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Supreme Court allows execution of Arizona prisoner

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] vacated [opinion, PDF] a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], granting a conditional preliminary injunction in the execution of an Arizona death row inmate. The Ninth Circuit stayed the inmate's execution on Sunday, refusing to allow the execution to move forward [JURIST report] until prison officials revealed the details of the secret two-drug combination to be used for the lethal injection. In its three-sentence opinion, the Supreme Court simply stated that the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant the prisoner's request for a stay on his execution. The inmate, Joseph R. Wood III, was executed Wednesday, dying two hours after the administration of the drugs. Onlookers say that Wood gasped for breath and struggled to breathe [CNN report] for an hour and forty minutes before dying.

Use of the death penalty [JURIST backgrounder] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally. In May the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged the US to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty following a botched execution [JURIST reports] performed in Oklahoma the previous week. In April the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled that inmates' constitutional rights were not violated by keeping the sources of lethal injection drugs secret [JURIST report]. Earlier that month a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri [official website] allowed the continuation [JURIST report] of a lawsuit challenging a bill that would conceal the identities of individuals involved in the administration of the death penalty. A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma [official website] issued a temporary restraining order in February, enjoining a pharmacy from providing a lethal injection drug [JURIST report] to the Missouri Department of Corrections [official website]. In June 2013 North Carolina repealed a law [JURIST report] allowing minority inmates on death row to seek a reduced sentence.

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