Oklahoma Officials Plan to Use Nitrogen for Executions

Oklahoma Officials Plan to Use Nitrogen for Executions

The US state of Oklahoma is to stop using lethal injections to execute prisoners, and instead plans to become the first to use nitrogen gas in the death chamber.

State officials made the announcement Wednesday, saying they cannot get the drugs needed for lethal injections because some drugmakers oppose having their products used in executions.

"Trying to find alternative compounds or someone with prescribing authority willing to provide us with the drugs is becoming exceedingly hard, and we will not attempt to obtain the drugs illegally", Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said. Using an inert gas will be effective, simple to administer, easy to obtain and requires no complex medical procedures.

Some of the most recent disputes have turned on the drug midazolam, which was part of the cocktail that Oklahoma used for the botched execution of an inmate, Clayton Lockett, in 2014.

Globally, the United States ranked seventh or eighth in executions in 2016, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and possibly Vietnam, where the total number of executions remains unclear, the center said. 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.

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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". "I was calling all around the world, to the back streets of the Indian sub-continent", Oklahoma Corrections Department Director Joe Allbaugh claimed to The Associated Press.

Mr Hunter said: "Well documented research has shown that individuals who are exposed to excessive amounts of inert gas experience fatigue dizziness, perhaps a headache, loss of breath and eventual loss of consciousness". For example, officials don't know what equipment will be used, although Allbaugh said that a mask for delivering the gas would be developed.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution in more than three years following high-profile mistakes involving lethal injections.

The attorney general's office has said in court filings that it will not request any execution dates until at least five months after the new protocols are released.

"In the time since a moratorium was placed on executions, the state has done absolutely nothing to inspire confidence that they are now able to successfully exercise the ultimate power of any government", said Ryan Kiesel, director of the ACLU in Oklahoma.

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