A Shot in the Dark: Why Virginia Should Adopt the Firing Squad as its Primary Method of Execution

P. Thomas DiStanislao, III*

On July 23, 2014, Arizona carried out Joseph Rudolph Wood III‘s death sentence by lethal injection in what was one of the most protracted executions in the history of the United States. Executioners began injecting lethal drugs—midazolam (a sedative) and hydromorphone—into his blood stream at 1:57 PM and finally pronounced him dead at 3:49 PM, nearly two hours later. Wood‘s attorneys had enough time to file emergency appeals with the Arizona Supreme Court and the United States District Court for the District of Arizona soliciting an injunction to stop the execution. They argued he was still alive and requested an order to resuscitate him as he lay in the death chamber. Wood died during the hearings on those filings. According to witnesses, he gasped more than 600 times before he succumbed and was compared to a fish on shore gulping for air while on the gurney.

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* J.D. Candidate 2016, University of Richmond School of Law. B.A., 2011, Wake Forest University. I would like to thank Pietro Sanitate for his suggestions and the University of Richmond Law Review staff and editors, especially Glenice Coombs and Leah Stiegler, for their assistance. I would also like to thank Judith and Stephen Smith for their valuable insight, Robert Harrison for his help, and my parents, Gini and Phil DiStanislao, for their support, encouragement, and for always answering my early-morning phone calls. Most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, Elizabeth, without whom none of this would be possible, for having faith in me and for reminding me to pray for a world where articles like this are no longer needed.