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Case Name Wood v. Ryan CJ-AZ-0002
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-01447-NVW ( D. Ariz. )
State/Territory Arizona
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
On June 26, 2014, multiple residents and citizens of Arizona subject to the death penalty filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiffs sued the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) and multiple state officials associated with the organization under 42 U ... read more >
On June 26, 2014, multiple residents and citizens of Arizona subject to the death penalty filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiffs sued the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) and multiple state officials associated with the organization under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. With the representation of private counsel and the Federal Public Defenders Office, the plaintiffs claimed violations of the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, and the Supremacy Clause. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants’ lethal injection protocols did not follow the FDA’s regulations and that the Department was concealing information regarding protocols. The plaintiffs sought temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to order defendants to stop executing plaintiffs until they complied with FDA regulations.

On July 2, 2014, the lead plaintiff, Wood, filed a motion for preliminary injunction to bar defendants from his scheduled execution on July 23, 2014 without first disclosing to him the process of his execution and the drugs to be used. On July 10, 2014, Judge Neil Wake denied the motion on the grounds that Wood’s motion, founded on the First Amendment claim in his complaint, was not likely to succeed on the merits and did not raise serious questions as to the merits. 2014 WL 3385115. Wood appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit.

On July 19, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision and ordered that Wood’s execution be stayed until the ADC provided specific information as to the drugs to be used in his execution and the qualifications of the personnel intended to carry out his execution. 759 F.3d 1076 (9th Cir. 2014). ADC immediately filed a petition for a rehearing, but the Ninth Circuit denied the petition on July 21, 2014. The following day, the Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision, holding that Judge Wake did not abuse his discretion in denying Wood’s motion for a preliminary injunction. 135 S. Ct. 21 (2014). Mr. Wood was executed on July 23, 2014.

The remaining plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on September 18, 2014. The complaint described the defendants’ “improvisational execution” of Wood, stating that it placed “his suffering far beyond what the Constitution permits.” It alleged that he gasped for air for nearly two hours as the defendants continued to inject him with a variety of drugs. The complaint also added new plaintiffs and new claims to the original suit. It added several other citizens and residents of Arizona subject to the death penalty, as well as the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, Inc. The complaint further alleged that the defendants had denied the press their First Amendment rights to access governmental proceedings, and that they violated the prisoners' rights against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. They also claimed that the defendants had violated the Equal Protection Clause because execution methods varied without a principled basis for such deviations.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on October 9, 2014 for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The defendants moved to dismiss most of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims alleging violation of their right to governmental proceedings and their Fourteenth Amendment claims. On November 21, 2014, the parties entered a stipulated agreement to resolve this motion. The stipulation set forth the following terms: Arizona would publicly release a report regarding Wood’s execution and, in light of this report, the ADC would review its death penalty procedure and propose a new protocol. If adopted, ADC would provide the plaintiffs with a copy to review and upload the final protocol on the website for public viewing. Regarding the litigation process, the stipulation stated that the defendants would not seek an execution warrant from the Arizona Supreme Court until after the issue was resolved and a final judgment was entered, that all litigation would be stayed until the new protocol was proposed, that the plaintiffs would be allowed to file a second amended complaint after the new protocol was released, if needed, and that the defendants would take appropriate steps to preserve all documents relied upon and used in the report. Both parties agreed to not seek attorneys' fees.

Judge Wake lifted the stay on January 12, 2016, holding that the stipulation had been satisfied but that the state could not seek a warrant of execution until the matters pending in the case were resolved. The plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint on January 29, 2016. This complaint alleged that the new protocol proposed by the defendants used a combination of drugs never used together before and still violated the same rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ entire second amended complaint on February 19, 2016 on the grounds that it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. On May 18, 2016, Judge Neil Wake granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice as to both the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims on the grounds that neither guaranteed a legal right of access to government information. This decision also dismissed the First Amendment Coalition as a plaintiff. 188 F. Supp. 3d 940. First Amendment Coalition appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit.

Meanwhile in the district court, on July 29, 2016, the defendants filed another motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim of an Eighth Amendment violation for cruel and unusual punishment on the grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The defendants argued that they no longer had the midazolam drug plaintiffs referred to in the complaint and could not no longer obtain it. On December 19, 2016, the parties agreed to dismiss the first claim in the plaintiffs’ second amended complaint without prejudice. But, if the ADC used or showed an intention of using midazolam or any benzodiazepine drug as part of the lethal injection protocol in the future, any future prisoner, as a third-part beneficiary, could reinstate this claim. Neither party sought attorneys' fees but they did agree in the stipulation that plaintiffs were entitled to seek fees if the defendant breached the agreement.

The final stipulated agreement of the case was entered on June 21, 2017. The agreement dismissed the last two claims in the plaintiffs’ complaint but the parties did not agree to settle. So, the plaintiffs’ preserved the right to appeal any claims in the case. Essentially, the agreement prohibited the defendant from ever engaging in the following conduct: using certain categories of drugs or expired drugs in the lethal injection process, forcing prisoners to pay for the chemicals to be used in their own injection, failing to provide a timely report of the drugs used upon request, changing the drugs to be used in an execution after a warrant has been sought without notifying the prisoner, and adopting any language that would allow the ADC or its directors discretion to deviate from the central issues to the established execution procedures. The agreement stated that if the defendants engaged in or showed an intent to engage in certain prohibited conduct that the claims would be reinstated and the defendants would be enjoined.

First Amendment Coalition's appeal continued in the Ninth Circuit. Oral arguments occurred on September 12, 2018. On September 17, 2019, the court released its opinion affirming in part and reversing in part the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ second amended complaint. The court held that the ADC did violate the First Amendment right to access to governmental proceedings by restricting access to hearing sounds of an execution and reversed the district court’s decision on this count. However, the court held that the First Amendment right does not encompass knowledge of execution drugs or personnel and affirmed the district court opinion on these counts. Finally, the court held that the Arizona restrictions did not restrict plaintiffs’ First Amendment right of access to the courts. The case was remanded on the reversed count. First Amendment Coal. of Ariz., Inc. v. Ryan , 938 F.3d 1069 (U.S. App. 2019)

The case is ongoing.

Mackenzie Walz - 10/08/2017
Maddie McFee - 11/21/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Supremacy Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Death Penalty
Lethal Injection - Chemicals Used
Lethal Injection - General
Lethal Injection - Staffing (including physician)
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Conditions of confinement
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Records Disclosure
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Governor of Arizona
The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC)
Wardens at the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)
Plaintiff Description Multiple citizens and residents of Arizona subject to the death penalty and nonprofit First Amendment Coalition of Arizona.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 06/26/2014
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
2:14−cv−01447−NVW (D. Ariz.)
CJ-AZ-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/05/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint For Equitable, Injunctive, and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
CJ-AZ-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/26/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 21] (2014 WL 3385115) (D. Ariz.)
CJ-AZ-0002-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/10/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion- 9th Circuit reversing District Court's denial of preliminary injunction (ECF BL-29) [Ct. of App. ECF# 29] (759 F.3d 1076)
CJ-AZ-0002-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/19/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint For Violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Equitable, Injunctive, and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 51]
CJ-AZ-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/18/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Stipulation For Temporary Stay [ECF# 67]
CJ-AZ-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/21/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint For Violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Equitable, Injunctive, and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 94]
CJ-AZ-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/26/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 117] (188 F.Supp.3d 940) (D. Ariz.)
CJ-AZ-0002-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/18/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 137] (D. Ariz.)
CJ-AZ-0002-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/10/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Settlement Agreement and [Proposed] Order For Dismissal of Claim One [ECF# 152]
CJ-AZ-0002-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Settlement Agreement and [Proposed] Order For Dismissal of Claims Six and Seven [ECF# 186]
CJ-AZ-0002-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (938 F.3d 1069)
CJ-AZ-0002-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/17/2019
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Bybee, Jay S. (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0010
Gould, Ronald Murray (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0010
Thomas, Sidney Runyan (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0010
Wake, Neil Vincent (D. Ariz.) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0002 | CJ-AZ-0002-0006 | CJ-AZ-0002-0007 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Watford, Paul Jeffrey (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0011
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Joshua E. (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Baich, Dale Andrew (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0001 | CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Degen, Alycia Ann (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Felker, Jessica Lynn (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Haddad, Mark E. (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-0008 | CJ-AZ-0002-0009 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Konrad, Robin C. (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0001 | CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Light, Matt (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Lopez, Amanda V (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Mackay, Aimee G (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
McCray, Lauren Ann (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Roberts, Katherine A (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Sands, Jon M. (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0001 | CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005
Wedel, Collin Partington (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0003 | CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0005 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Binford, Matthew H (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Chiasson, Laura Patrice (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Done, Julie Ann (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Gard, Lacey Stover (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0008 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Horne, Thomas C. (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004
Miller, Keith Joseph (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Sparks, Jeffrey Lee (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0008 | CJ-AZ-0002-0009 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Todd, John Pressley (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-0008 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Weinzweig, David Daniel (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0008 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000
Zick, Jeffrey Alan (Arizona) show/hide docs
CJ-AZ-0002-0004 | CJ-AZ-0002-9000

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