Nitrogen gas could replace lethal injection in executions

- Officials in Oklahoma announced the state will being using nitrogen gas as a means to execute its death row inmates.

Many states report difficulties finding and buying the drugs used for lethal injections, so if Oklahoma finds the new method effective, nitrogen gas may become the standard - including in Florida.

Robert Dunham is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit that provides analysis and data on issues concerning capital punishment.

He says more states are running out of lethal injection drugs because drugmakers refuse to have their products used for execution. This leaves states like Oklahoma scrambling for a replacement.

"This is the first time someone has attempted to carry out executions using nitrogen gas and no one has ever tried it in the United States," Dunham said. "I don't think anyone has tried it anywhere in the world."

Dunham added there are still many unanswered questions about using nitrogen gas in executions.

"The Oklahoma Attorney General said that this is going to be safe and effective and it's going to be quick and there shouldn't be any problems, but there is no scientific evidence that backs that up," Dunham explained.

Oklahoma hasn't carried out an execution since 2015 when a botched execution made headlines. Those who witnessed the execution said the prisoner was still alive and moving a full 30 minutes after he should have been dead - a full hour after the execution began.

Likely looking to avoid a repeat, Oklahoma seems willing to make itself a test state for a new method.

"It's an experimental process so there will be challenges about the use of the gas itself and the way Oklahoma is going to attempt to administer it," Dunham said.

Two decades ago, Florida still used the electric chair to execute death row inmates. In the year 2000, the state switched to lethal injection as the preferred method.

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