OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — 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 U.S. state would use the gas to carry out capital punishment.
State Attorney General Mike Hunter and Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh jointly announced the plan, saying the two agencies would work together to develop new protocols over the next several months.
Oklahoma and other states haven’t been able to get the drugs required for lethal injections amid opposition from drugmakers to having their products used in executions. Allbaugh said in trying to find a supply of lethal drugs, he was forced to deal with “seedy individuals” who may have had access to them.
“I was calling all around the world, to the back streets of the Indian sub-continent,” Allbaugh said.
Oklahoma has had one of the busiest death chambers in the U.S., 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.
Hunter said using nitrogen is the best way for Oklahoma to resume executions because nitrogen is easy to obtain, simple to use and will result in a painless death for the inmate. He said there is a growing body of research on the use of inert gases on humans because of its use in assisted suicides.