Oklahoma Attorney General announces new execution method for state

AN OCT. 9 2014 FILE

The specifics are still being worked out, but Hunter and Allbaugh said using the gas method would eliminate the key hurdles to lethal injections: delicate medical procedures that have gone awry and resulted in a botched execution, and the difficulty of obtaining lethal drugs that won't cause suffering that violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In 2015, Oklahoma passed a law allowing nitrogen to be used in executions if the lethal injection was ever ruled unconstitutional, or if the drugs became unavailable.

"Trying to find alternative compounds or someone with prescribing authority willing to provide us with the drugs is becoming exceedingly hard, and we will not attempt to obtain the drugs illegally", Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said. That came to light after authorities in late September 2015 abruptly canceled the execution of Richard Glossip upon discovering they were about to use the wrong drug.

Attorney General Hunter says the new procedure is the best way for the state to move forward with executions and ensure justice is met for victims of heinous crimes, and Corrections Director Allbaugh says his agency is now studying inert gas inhalation and is working to develop a protocol and procedure to carry out future executions. A bungled procedure in 2014 left an inmate writhing on the gurney.

An autopsy first reported by The Oklahoman revealed that one of the drugs used was not part of the DOC's lethal injection protocol.

"I was calling all around the world to the back streets of the Indian subcontinent to procure drugs", he said.

No state or country has ever used nitrogen for executions. Allbaugh said in trying to find a supply of lethal drugs, he was forced to deal with "seedy individuals" who may have had access to them.

Prison officials must still develop policies and procedures for how the gas would be administered.

The attorney general's office has said in court filings that it will not request any execution dates until at least five months after the new protocols are released.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution in more than three years following high-profile mistakes involving lethal injections, including one that a grand jury described as an "inexcusable failure". "I think that Oklahoma has acted first and thought second in the manner it's gone about conducting executions", he told the Post at the time.

He said there is a growing body of research on the use of inert gases on humans because of its use in assisted suicides.

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