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August 8, 2021

Might Alabama become the first state to use nitrogen gas for an execution?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new AP article headlined "Alabama says it has built method for nitrogen gas execution."  Here are excerpts:

Alabama told a federal judge this week that it has finished construction of a “system” to use nitrogen gas to carry out death sentences, an execution method authorized by state law but never put into use.

The Alabama Department of Corrections indicated in an Aug. 2 court filing that it is waiting to make sure the nitrogen hypoxia system is ready, before writing procedures for how it will be used. The prison system did not describe how the system would work or give an estimate on when the state may try to use the new execution method.

“The ADOC has completed the initial physical build on the nitrogen hypoxia system. A safety expert has made a site visit to evaluate the system. As a result of the visit, the ADOC is considering additional health and safety measures,” a lawyer for the state attorney general’s office wrote in the court filing.

Alabama in 2018 became the third state — along with Oklahoma and Mississippi — to authorize the untested use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners. Death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving him or her of oxygen. Lawmakers theorized that death by nitrogen hypoxia could be a simpler and more humane execution method. But critics have likened the untested method to human experimentation.

No state has used nitrogen hypoxia to carry out an execution, and no state has developed a protocol for its use, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.... Alabama currently carries out executions by lethal injections unless an inmate requests the electric chair. As lethal injection drugs become difficult to obtain, states have begun looking at alternative ideas for carrying out death sentences including firing squads and gas.

A few (of many) prior related posts:

August 8, 2021 at 10:16 PM | Permalink


I oppose the death penalty both on policy and constitutional grounds.

As long as we have it, we should try to apply it as best as we can. Lethal injection for more than one reason (including medical ethics) has shown to be problematic.

A few suggest the firing squad is better. I think this is seen as too graphic and barbaric -- putting aside if this is a dubious sentiment -- to be likely to be put in place. Its usage to my knowledge was generally left to military (for understandable) and western (in part from Mormon influence) locations.

Nitrogen gas might in some form be better than lethal injection. I'm suspicious though some (yet again) assure us it is the "best" approach or some similar positive assurances. Like in the past.

I'm also interested in it as a general thing, as a matter of history and detail. It is somewhat surprising to me it was not used already, but there has been so few executions and a new execution method brings with it complications.

Plus, conservatives on the Court have strongly rejected numerous challenges to lethal injections, though in technically leaving open avenues. So, there has yet to be at least on the federal level a compelling judicial pressure to change.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 9, 2021 10:51:47 AM

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