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Death penalty: US struggles to come to terms with lethal injection issue

The US Supreme Court has approved the execution by lethal injection of murderer Joseph Woods, despite him successfully arguing that the State of Arizona's failure to provide him with the maker of the drugs that will be used to kill him represented a breach of his constitution rights, reports the BBC.

Joseph Wood is scheduled to be executed by the US State of Arizona today, after the US Supreme Court ruled that the State could proceed with plans to execute Mr Woods by lethal injection.

Woods had successfully challenged the State to tell him the manufacturer of the drugs that would be used to issue him with a lethal injection.

The State had refused, saying that whilst it would inform him of the type of drugs that they intended to use, they were prevented from informing him of the manufacturer by State confidentiality laws, designed to prevent reprisals against manufactures from anti-capital punishment campaigners.

Death by lethal injection is used in several states in the US, including Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Washington. It is also used in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee.

However, the practice has always been controversial, with many instances of failure of the appropriate medication to achieve death in a humane fashion.

The most recent controversial death occurred this year in January, when the State of Ohio executed murderer Dennis McGuire. The procedure involved two medications, Midazolam and Hydromorphone. The execution appeared to go wrong, however, and Mr McGuire took around 25 minutes to die, during which time witnesses said he was clearly distressed and appeared to be choking.

Companies who manufacture medications that are used in American execution protocols have often immediately moved to ban US states from procuring the substances for that purpose, and the EU has imposed a ban on exports of medications for capital punishment.

The result is that US states now struggle to find sources of medication for executions.

"We conclude that Wood has raised serious questions as to whether a first amendment right, in the context of a public execution, attaches to the specific information he requests," ruled an Appeal Court on Saturday.

However the US Supreme Court ruled that the execution could go ahead.