Oklahoma to resume executions using nitrogen gas

Oklahoma will resume executions after 3-year hold — with nitrogen gas

"Using an inert gas will be effective, simple to administer, easy to obtain and requires no complex medical procedures", Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said.

The state of Oklahoma will use nitrogen gas inhalation as its primary method of execution, the state's attorney general announced Wednesday.

Hunter said the state plans to abandon its current lethal injection procedure, which relies on a three-drug cocktail - Midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride - inserted into an IV.

Oklahoma is among 31 USA states that permit the death penalty and it has carried out 112 executions, the third highest number for a U.S. state, since 1976 when capital punishment was reinstated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit capital punishment monitor.

FOX23 reached out to area district attorneys about possible cases this could impact. The last inmate to be executed in Oklahoma was Charles Frederick Warner, in January 2015. Still, at a time when states have struggled to obtain lethal injection drugs, Oklahoma's move is the latest in a series of dramatic efforts some officials have made to continue carrying out death sentences. "What research has the state undertaken to ensure the safety and legality of this new process?" said Dale Baich, who represents Oklahoma death-row prisoners.

The state put executions on hold after that. 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. 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. Many have not been adopted, including a recommendation that there be an independent, third-party review of completed executions.

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"The victims of death row inmates have waited long enough for justice", he said in a statement.

Oklahoma officials said they had chosen nitrogen in part because it is often used in places where assisted suicide is legal.

A financial analysis prepared for state legislatures before Oklahoma passed the nitrogen gas option in 2015 described the potential costs as "minimal" and said the process would require only a gas mask and a container of nitrogen.

The scramble for drugs has caused some states to consider unusual or antiquated ways of putting inmates to death.

"Who are the experts on nitrogen and nitrogen hypoxia who will be brought in?" Alabama legislators are considering a bill on the issue this year.

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