OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - An Oklahoma lawmaker has proposed nitrogen gas as a possible alternative for executing condemned prisoners after a botched execution in April raised concerns about lethal injection.
State Representative Mike Christian, a Republican, on Tuesday called for a state House committee to study the use of “nitrogen hypoxia” for executions, saying it would be painless for inmates and affordable for Oklahoma.
The process, which would require an inmate to be in a sealed chamber or wear a special mask, would slowly replace oxygen with nitrogen.
“We are a conservative state, and as long as our constituents support capital punishment, we must find a way to carry out executions painlessly and humanely,” Christian told Reuters.
Christian said he began researching alternatives to lethal injection after the April execution of Clayton Lockett, in which drugs leaked into his tissue after an IV insertion failed.
Christian initially proposed a firing squad as an alternate method of execution, but said nitrogen asphyxiation would be painless and easier to carry out.
He said a 2008 BBC Horizon documentary about execution helped solidify his opinion about nitrogen gas. In the documentary, former British member of parliament Michael Portillo says that nitrogen could cause death in about 15 seconds, and the prisoner would not feel pain, but a euphoria similar to drunkenness.
Because no IVs or special drug cocktails would be used, Christian said the method is close to foolproof.
Oklahoma’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the method.
“Oklahomans tend to question their government over everything except for executions,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Inherently, all executions are flawed. There will always be mistakes.”
Following the study, Christian said he plans to file a bill introducing the use of nitrogen gas as an execution method in next year’s legislative session.
Reporting by Heide Brandes; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Phil Berlowitz