Wednesday, 25 April, 2018

Oklahoma death penalty: state plans to execute inmates with nitrogen gas

Oklahoma moving toward gas executions after three-year death penalty hiatus amid lethal injection controversy Oklahoma Says It Will Use Nitrogen Gas in Executions
Lillian Steele | 15 March, 2018, 05:43

Oklahoma plans to resume executions by using nitrogen or another gas to starve an inmate of oxygen because it can not obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections, state officials said on Wednesday.

"This method has never been used before and is experimental", said Dale Baich, a federal public defender and one of the attorneys representing Oklahoma death row prisoners in a federal lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocol.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh held a news conference on Wednesday announcing a change to the state's death penalty process.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution since 2015 after a series of mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014.

A state law passed in 2015 allows nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method if lethal injection is ever held to be unconstitutional or drugs are unavailable. The incident culminated almost 17 months of turmoil in Oklahoma's death-penalty process, starting with the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014, in which he writhed and groaned on the execution table before dying.

The House Intelligence Committee has set itself a March 22 deadline to make changes to a draft report authored by panel Republicans, at which point they plan to adopt the report as final and send it on to the intelligence community for any necessary redactions of classified information.

A grand jury investigation sharply assailed officials charged with carrying out Oklahoma's executions, and Scott Pruitt, then the state's attorney general, called them "careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures".

The execution table in the death-penalty chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Hunter said this method is the best way for the state to move forward with executions. He later died in the death chamber of a heart attack.

Warner's execution, which was scheduled to occur the same night as Lockett's, was ultimately postponed until the following January.

Executions could resume no earlier than the end of the year. He said state leaders had to "to utilize an effective and humane manner that satisfies both the Constitution and the court system". "How can we trust Oklahoma to get this right when the state's recent history reveals a culture of carelessness and mistakes in executions?"

There's a nationwide shortage of an anesthetic component of a three-part mixture used in some lethal injections. Forty-eight inmates are on death row.

He said there is a growing body of research on the use of inert gases on humans because of its use in assisted suicides. Gas inhalation would be the state's primary execution method if approved, officials said Wednesday.

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