Oklahoma to use nitrogen gas for executions

Oklahoma to use nitrogen gas for executions

The debate over lethal injection, which prompted court cases, execution delays and struggles to obtain drugs, led Oklahoma in 2015 to make nitrogen gas its backup execution method in instances when lethal injection could not be used.

Oklahoma is the latest state to explore alternative execution methods - including the electric chair and firing squad - because pharmaceutical companies will no longer sell their drugs to prisons for lethal injections. "We can no longer sit on the sidelines and wait to find drugs. Using an IGI will be effective, simple to administer, easy to obtain, and requires no complex medical procedures".

Oklahoma has had one of the busiest death chambers in the US, but hasn't carried out an execution since 2015 after a series of mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney and drug mix-ups in which the wrong lethal drugs were delivered to the prison for executions.

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.

At the news conference in Oklahoma on Wednesday, officials did not discuss the use of sedatives, but said they had not yet determined a protocol in which to carry out executions with nitrogen.

In 2014, the execution of Clayton Lockett gained worldwide attention when he kicked, writhed and grimaced for 20 minutes before his execution was called off; he died of a heart attack not long after.

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".

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Seventeen death row inmates in Oklahoma are eligible for execution dates after losing appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The AG's Office called on the DOC to again revise its protocol despite a recent overhaul that followed the controversial 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett using the drug midazolam.

"After a couple of breaths, the individual loses consciousness", Joe Allbaugh with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said.

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

He said there is a growing body of research on the use of inert gases on humans because of its use in assisted suicides.

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

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