After trying unsuccessfully for months to obtain lethal injection drugs, Oklahoma officials said Wednesday they plan to use nitrogen gas to execute inmates once the state resumes using the death penalty, marking the first time a us state would use the gas to carry out capital punishment.
"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 IGI will be effective, simple to administer, easy to obtain, and requires no complex medical procedures".
Oklahoma adopted nitrogen gas inhalation as its backup method of execution in April 2015 while the state was awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling over the way lethal injections were carried out there. That came to light after authorities in late September 2015 abruptly canceled the execution of Richard Glossip upon discovering they were about to use the wrong drug.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement that the state would use the gas as its primary means of execution once a procedure for its use had been finalized.
An autopsy first reported by The Oklahoman revealed that one of the drugs used was not part of the DOC's lethal injection protocol.
State law also allows officials to opt for firing squads or the electric chair in executions. "I think that Oklahoma has acted first and thought second in the manner it's gone about conducting executions", he told the Post at the time.
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The following year, Oklahoma successfully executed Charles Warner but used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride as the third drug.
In addition to six death row inmates whose executions have been stayed, 12 death row inmates have exhausted all of their appeals and are eligible to be scheduled for executions.
"After a couple of breaths, the individual loses consciousness", Joe Allbaugh with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said. The European Union in 2011 voted to prohibit the sale of the drug and seven other barbiturates to the United States for use in torture or executions.
Oklahoma has not carried out an execution in more than three years following high-profile mistakes involving lethal injections.
Referring to the nitrogen-gas method, Baich said, "Oklahoma is once again asking its citizens to trust its officials as they learn on the job through a new execution procedure and method".
Midazolam, a benzodiazepine, was developed in the 1970s and became one of the world's most commonly used sedatives; it is used to make a prisoner unconscious and limit pain.