OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma would become the first state to allow the execution of death row inmates using nitrogen gas under a bill overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday by the House of Representatives.
The House voted 85-10 for the bill by Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Christian, who began studying alternative methods after a botched lethal injection in the spring that led the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of Oklahoma's current three-drug method.
Christian said numerous studies have been conducted on nitrogen hypoxia, which is similar to what pilots at high altitudes can encounter when oxygen supplies diminish. He described the method as humane, painless and easy to administer.
"I believe it's revolutionary," said Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper and a staunch advocate of the death penalty. "I think it's the best thing we've come up with since the start of executions by the government."
Christian said prison officials in several other states expressed an interest in his proposal, but he declined to name them.
Rep. Kevin Matthews, who voted against the bill, said he wished the Legislature would spend more time trying to solve such problems as low wages, a lack of affordable health care and poor education outcomes.
"I just don't have the stomach for looking for new ways to kill people," said Matthews, a Tulsa Democrat.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where a similar measure passed a committee earlier this year with bipartisan support.
Under the bill, lethal injection would remain the state's first method of execution, but nitrogen gas would become the second alternative method and be used if injection were declared unconstitutional or if the drugs became unavailable.
Under current law, electrocution is the second option, followed by firing squad. The bill would make electrocution the third method, followed by firing squad.
Source: WHDH, Associated Press, March 3, 2015
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