Oklahoma to use execution method deemed unfit for euthanising mammals

Other | Wednesday 21st March 2018 | David

Breaking new ground for cruel and unusual punishment, Oklahoma has announced plans to use nitrogen gas to execute prisoners on death row, making it the first state in the US to do so.

The news comes in the wake of several European drug companies barring their products from being used for lethal injections in an effort to obstruct the practice of capital punishment in the US. Not to be discouraged, states across the country have sought a variety of alternatives. While the electric chair is making a comeback in Tennessee and Utah is reintroducing the firing squad, Oklahoma envisages death by nitrogen asphyxiation as the way of the future.


What makes this a particularly alarming method of capital punishment is that this same approach was allegedly deemed inappropriate for euthanizing mammals by the American Veterinary Medical Association. According to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, it would take more than 7 minutes to kill a mere 70-pound pig with nitrogen asphyxiation.

Further concerns are raised by Oklahoma’s poor track record in executing inmates. In 2014, a prisoner was left writhing in agony for 43 minutes after being administered an untested drug mixture. For the state’s next execution, nine months later, an inmate was killed using the wrong drug. “How can we trust Oklahoma to get this right when the state’s recent history reveals a culture of carelessness and mistakes in executions?” lawyer Dale Baich asked the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, on a worldwide level, capital punishment is on the decrease, with 53% of countries having abolished the death penalty and a further 19% that haven’t carried out an execution in the last decade. In their search for a solution to their lethal poison shortage, the Oklahoma authorities might want to take a hint from the rest of the world before they resort to killing their prisoners with a method deemed unfit for farm animals.