Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma are considering two separate bills that would allow the state’s department of corrections to use gas chambers as an alternative to lethal injection for execution, as dwindling stocks of drugs and scandals over botched procedures fuel a search for alternatives.
Mike Christian, the Oklahoma representative who proposed the bill, told the Associated Press that execution by nitrogen hypoxia would be “a lot more practical,” painless, and would not require the presence of a medical doctor.
The use of lethal injection has become problematic in recent years, as stocks of pentobarbital run lower, following of an EU decision not to sell the drug – which is manufactured in Denmark – to US corrections departments.
Oklahoma’s use of lethal injection as a form of execution is currently being reviewed by the US supreme court after an execution in April 2014 using another experimental cocktail of drugs was botched, leaving an inmate, Clayton Lockett, writhing and convulsing in pain for 43 minutes before eventually dying of heart failure.
The prison warden supervising Lockett’s execution described the scene as “a bloody mess,” leading the supreme court to weigh whether lethal injections using midazolam constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the eighth amendment.
Other states are also seeking alternatives to pentobarbital. Last January , Ohio used a new and experimental combination of US-made medical drugs midazolam and hydromorphone to execute a prisoner, resulting in another long, drawn-out death. Last month, governor John Kasich postponed all Ohio executions by a year so that the issue could be addressed.
In Tennessee in May 2014, governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill that mandated the use of the electric chair as a backup when lethal drug stocks run low.
Missouri is also contemplating a return to gas chambers after the state supreme court placed a moratorium on executions while they consider the alternatives, and in Utah, a state legislative committee approved a bill in November suggesting the reinstatement of firing squads – an execution method the state last used in 2010 – meaning the bill will now go to a vote of the full state legislature.
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