State officials are announcing a plan to develop new execution protocol using gas inhalation after three consecutive years have passed without an execution in Oklahoma amid controversy over lethal injection.
MS has a law allowing nitrogen to be used in executions if the lethal injection method is unconstitutional or unavailable, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The state attorney general, Mike Hunter, and corrections department director, Joe Allbaugh, jointly announced the plan, reported the Guardian.
Oklahoma has had one of the busiest death chambers in the United States, but has not carried out an execution since 2015 after a series of mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney.
Many states have slowed their lethal injection executions as the drugs have become hard to obtain in the past two years amid a nationwide shortage and after some drug companies mandated their products not be used to kill inmates. In 2016, the state's grand jury recommended such a step be taken, as Oklahoma has had difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs. A bungled procedure in 2014 left an inmate writhing on the gurney.
A grand jury investigation sharply assailed officials charged with carrying out Oklahoma's executions, and Scott Pruitt, then the state's attorney general, called them "careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures".
Calling the protocol "experimental", he added, "It's a very different story when you're trying to put to death a person who wants to stay alive than somebody who's seeking to have euthanasia or someone who dies from accidental ingestion".
Warner's execution, which was scheduled to occur the same night as Lockett's, was ultimately postponed until the following January.
The time frame for when executions will resume has not yet been fully set yet.
"As state leaders, it is our duty to find an effective and humane manner that satisfies both the Constitution and the court system", Hunter said.
"Nobody has attempted this kind of execution before", said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. But in recent years, even those states dedicated to continuing the practice have run into roadblocks amid a shortage of lethal injection chemicals, driven in part by drugmakers' objections to the death penalty. Forty-eight inmates are on death row.
Hunter said the administration of the gas would probably require the use of a mask placed over the inmate's head, but he said the mechanical details still have to be worked out. "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".