Using Nitrogen Gas for Executions is Untested and Poorly Understood. Three States Plan to Do it Anyway.


Professor Deborah Denno talks in The Appeal about the approval of three states, Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma to use nitrogen gas for executions.

Mississippi and Alabama followed Oklahoma in 2017 and 2018 in approving nitrogen for executions. But none of the states has actually come up with a way to use it. That comes as a relief to opponents who say there’s no way to predict whether it will be painless.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections did not respond to a request for comment on its approval of nitrogen for executions. “We are still working with the Attorney General’s office on developing a method and protocol that meets with legal and constitutional requirements,” Matthew Elliott, a spokesperson for the department, told The Appeal via email.

But Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who is an expert in the history of capital punishment, sees nitrogen as the latest in a string of poorly chosen execution methods. “History has shown they only get worse. They only get sloppier, they only get riskier,” she said. “There will come a time when people can’t believe that we did this.”

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