Because of difficulty in obtaining drugs previously used in executions, Oklahoma is embarking on exploration of  injection of nitrogen gas to kill inmates sentenced to die.

Naturally, this brings Arkansas to mind. It, too, has had to turn to secretive and dishonest means to obtain execution drugs and it doesn’t currently have a fresh supply of all drugs necessary for killing.

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Oklahoma seems ready to unilaterally make a change in killing procedure. I don’t think that’s possible in Arkansas, where a statute sets out the execution protocols. It says

(c) The department shall select one (1) of the following options for a lethal-injection protocol, depending on the availability of the drugs:

(1) A barbiturate; or

(2) Midazolam, followed by vecuronium bromide, followed by potassium chloride.

The three-drug cocktail has been the preferred course, despite challenges to its use as potentially causing unconstitutionally cruel effects as it is used.

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So now, maybe nitrogen. As Oklahoma goes, will Arkansas go next? We could always have another special session, though no executions are currently scheduled.

The Guardian article on Oklahoma notes objections, including that the idea is experimental and untested.

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“This method has never been used before and is experimental,” said Dale Baich, a federal public defender and one of the attorneys representing Oklahoma death row prisoners in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol. “How can we trust Oklahoma to get this right when the state’s recent history reveals a culture of carelessness and mistakes in executions?”

How would it work? They are still working on details, officials said.

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