Oklahoma Republicans suggest replacing lethal injection with gas chambers

"You wouldn't need a medical doctor to do it"

Published February 10, 2015 9:15PM (EST)


In the wake of drug shortages and botched lethal injection administrations, Oklahoma Republicans have suggested using gas chambers to execute inmates on death row. Two bills will be heard this week in legislative committees -- if approved, Oklahoma would be the first state to legalize such a method as a first resort.

Rep. Mike Christian, a proponent of the change, said to the Associated Press: "You wouldn't need a medical doctor to do it. It's a lot more practical. It's efficient." The new method of execution would involve pumping a chamber full of nitrogen, causing the inmate to die from hypoxia, or the depletion of oxygen in the bloodstream.

MSNBC's Michele Richinick reports:

If passed, the method would become effective on Nov. 1. It would cost about $300,000 to build a gas chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, according to a fiscal analysis.

Four states -- Arizona, California, Missouri and Wyoming -- currently have gas chamber procedures in place, but lethal injection remains the primary method of execution, according to the  Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1976, 11 inmates have been executed in a gas chamber. Prisoners in Arizona, California, and Missouri can choose to die in a gas chamber. Inmates in Wyoming, however, are only authorized to be executed in gas chambers if the lethal injection statute is held unconstitutional.

The U.S. supreme court is reviewing the state's use of lethal injection after a botched execution caused inmate Clayton Lockett to suffer terribly for 43 minutes before dying of heart failure last April.

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Capital Punishment Death Penalty Hypoxia Lethal Injection Oklahoma