Oklahoma Gassing Prisoners Law Passed, First State To Allow Nitrogen Gas Executions

Oklahoma is the first state to approve gassing prisoners with nitrogen in order to carry out death penalty sentences. The state’s Republican Governor Mary Fallin signed the Oklahoma gassing capital punishment bill into law on Monday.

The death penalty sentence option was reportedly approved as an alternative to the use of lethal injections. Oklahoma lawmakers who supported the gassing of prisoners legislation reportedly felt such a law was necessary because lethal injections “carry the risk of not working” and can prolong the death of the prisoner. Concerns that a court order pertaining to the drugs used in lethal injections could prompt a shortage of the shots, also reportedly played a role in the Oklahoma gassing prisoners decision.

Executions were been placed on hold in Oklahoma pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court lethal injection case. The court is currently deliberating whether or not the three-drug lethal injection method used by the state is constitutional.

Changes to the way Oklahoma executions are carried out were prompted by the botched execution of Clayton Lockett last year. The 38-year-old was sentenced to death for shooting a teenage girl and then watching his accomplices bury her alive. During the Lockett execution, a new three-drug sedative was being used for the first time.

When Oklahoma prison officials discovered that something was going wrong during the Clayton Lockett execution, attempts were made to halt the procedure. The death row inmate reportedly “groaned in pain” and ultimately died of a heart attack 43 minutes his execution began. The lethal injection problems encountered during the Lockett execution were reportedly due to issues with the placement of an intravenous line.

Oklahoma gassing of prisoners supporters state that such a form of execution is both humane and painless. When the gas is used to carry out a death penalty sentence, a nitrogen-induced hypoxia reportedly occurs quickly. Gassing of prisoners inside a chamber does not require any particular medical expertise, according to those who uttered support for the lethal injection alternative.

Opponents of the Oklahoma gassing of prisoners law have noted that execution by nitrogen gas is untested on humans and has been banned from being used to put down animals in some states.

Adam Leathers, Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty representative, shared his thoughts on plans to gas prisoners in a public release.

“This is not only a grotesque waste of resources but indicative of a corrupt value system. It is sad to know that our State’s collective bloodlust is so unabated that our leadership feels the need to spend resources to put a back up system into place so State sponsored murder can go on uninterrupted.”

“I support that policy, and I believe capital punishment must be performed effectively and without cruelty. The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard,” Governor Mary Fallin said.

What do you think about Oklahoma becoming the first state to approve gassing prisoners to carry out death penalty executions?

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