Oklahoma Lawmaker Proposes 'New' Gas Chamber Executions

Tuesday, February 10th 2015, 5:24 pm
By: News 9

A new way to execute death row inmates is under review. Two bills will be heard in the house and senate that propose death by gas.

The state's current three drug cocktail has been labeled "experimental" by many. And now with a new form of the gas chamber on the table, some experts say this alternative is just as experimental.

"We have a whole new method, that is what you should focus on," said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of The Death Penalty Information Center based in Washington D.C.

That's the message Dieter feels Oklahoma lawmakers are sending while the state's three drug cocktail is under review with the US Supreme Court. He said that message is on a bill authored by Rep. Mike Christian.

Last year, Christian voiced support for the firing squad, but this year he proposed execution by gas, using nitrogen hypoxia, which would cause death by a lack of oxygen. 

2/10/2015 Related Story: Nitrogen Gas Death Penalty Bill Clears Oklahoma Panel

"From the time people have been killing folks, they're experimental. So even…lethal injection was," said Christian.

That's a problem for Dieter, who said because Nitrogen hypoxia has never been used before in an execution it creates the same problems as the current protocol.

"This is an untried, untested, perhaps more humane, but perhaps not, method of execution," said Dieter.

Christian argues his proposal is innovative compared to when gas chambers were last used, decades ago.

"The delivery method is going to be a lot simpler. You can either use a secure mask or a hood and it's going to be a lot cheaper and a lot more efficient there," said Christian.

"Just because something looks good on paper, doesn't mean it will work when actually applying it to a human being. So I think this proposal is filled with problems that would take years to resolve," said Dieter.

Christian's bill has passed through a house committee, as well as a similar bill in the senate.

Three Oklahoma executions remain on hold while the current protocol is reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Oral arguments are set for April 29.