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Chicken-Fried News: Progressive execution

Gazette staff Mar 22, 2018 8:00 AM
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It’s not often that Oklahoma can be on the leading edge of any movement in the country. State leaders announced last week that the state plans to begin using nitrogen for executions, making it the first state in the country to use the colorless, odorless gas in the death-penalty chamber.

We’re not progressive unless it comes to figuring out ways to administer justice.

Charles Warner was the last person put to death in Oklahoma, which occurred in Jan. 2015. After his execution, it was shown that the wrong drug was used to stop the heart — they used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, according to Oklahoma Watch.

International drug manufacturers have made drugs used in the executions expensive or pulled them altogether over concerns that they violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Nitrogen, which is used in some assisted suicides in Europe and touted in the industry for euthanasia of animals, is a potential path for satisfying the Eighth Amendment, especially in comparison to the 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett — he reportedly writhed in pain on the execution table, according to Oklahoma Watch. The state passed a law in 2015 to use nitrogen as a potential use of execution.

An attorney representing 20 death row inmates who are currently suing the state over execution protocols said that the state is ignoring the recommendation suggested by the independent Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission in 2017 for an entirely new method of execution.

There are 17 inmates that have gone through the appeals process and are eligible for execution in Oklahoma. It will be months before the new plan can be implemented. It still has to stand up to court scrutiny, and according to Oklahoma Watch, the state does not have an apparatus to administer the nitrogen.