Inert Gas Inhalation Supplants Lethal Injection as Oklahoma's Execution Method of Choice

Bessie Dean
March 15, 2018

In 2014, Tennessee authorized prison officials to use the electric chair if lethal injection drugs were unavailable.

Executions were not expected to resume until at least the end of the year, according to The Oklahoman.

"Ever since that date, I have been in the mad hunt for drugs to perform lethal injection executions in Oklahoma", Allbaugh said.

The state intends to adopt the new execution method as prison officials are unable to acquire the necessary drugs for lethal injections - the method now employed by all American states that carry out the death penalty.

"We can no longer sit on the sidelines and wait to find drugs", Hunter said Wednesday.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter Director of the Department of Corrections Joe Allbaugh announced that the state will move forward with executions by method of "inert gas inhalation".

"It is the - a common procedure in states and in countries that allow for assisted suicide", Hunter said. Oklahoma would be the first state to employ the method.

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A multicounty grand jury under the purview of the state Attorney General's Office issued a report in May 2016 calling state officials' conduct during execution preparations "careless".

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.

Warner's execution, which was scheduled to occur the same night as Lockett's, was ultimately postponed until the following January. He said state leaders had to "to utilize an effective and humane manner that satisfies both the Constitution and the court system". But in recent years, even those states dedicated to continuing the practice have run into roadblocks amid a shortage of lethal injection chemicals, driven in part by drugmakers' objections to the death penalty.

Individuals who are exposed to excessive amounts of the inert gases have reported experiencing fatigue, dizziness, headache, loss of breath and eventually consciousness, Hunter said. When nitrogen gas was approved as a backup method in Oklahoma, the corrections department said there was no protocol in place, and that remained the case Wednesday, almost two years later.

Once the protocol is developed, the state must resolve a federal stay on executions before putting it into practice, which could take another five months or more.

State lawmakers then passed a law approving use of the gas.

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