BSU professor: Changes in lethal injection 'quite troubling'

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Boise State University criminal justice professor Ginny Hatch is co-authoring a college textbook about the death penalty.

Prof. Hatch just finished a chapter on botched executions when Arizona experienced...a botched execution.

"A lot has changed in the last few years with lethal injection," she told KBOI News. "It's quite troubling, actually."

Witnesses to the Arizona execution say it took two hours for convicted killer Joseph Wood to die after a lethal injection of two drugs left him snorting and gasping for breath.

It was the third botched execution this year in the country.

Hatch says one problem is states now lack the lethal three-drug combination used for decades.

"And that's because the countries in Europe that produce (the drugs) are refusing to send them here because they know they're being used for execution," said Hatch. "What that's done is had department of corrections officials struggling and scrambling to find drugs they can't get anymore. They've turned to questionable methods, using methods and drugs that haven't been tested."

When Idaho executed Richard Leavitt in 2012, the state execution team switched from the three-drug mixture to a single drug injection of pentobarbital.

Witnesses to that execution (and this reporter was one of them) said Leavitt appeared not to suffer and passed away quickly and quietly.

Idaho plans more executions although no specific dates have been publicly announced.

But the problem-plagued executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona add more fuel to the national debate over the death penalty - and how it's carried out.