Lawmaker calls for study on new execution method

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OKLAHOMA CITY - There has been a lot of talk about the death penalty in our state following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett earlier this year.

Now one lawmaker is trying to change the conversation. Representative Mike Christian is calling for a new way to execute inmates.

He wants to use nitrogen gas. It's an idea he has asked state lawmakers to review in an interim study.

The process is officially called Nitrogen Asphyxiation, a fancy term for the process of slowly replacing oxygen with nitrogen.

Those who have studied the process say it causes no pain and can kill a person within a matter of minutes.

Representative Christian said, "This is not a debate about the death penalty. It's not about the Clayton Lockett incident. This is about another method of execution."

The process slowly robs the body of oxygen, replacing it with nitrogen.

Rep. Christian said, "If you deplete oxygen it's within 8-to-14 seconds, up to no more than 20 seconds that they pass out. And then, within a few minutes, up to 8 minutes, probably less, that they would be pronounced dead."

Christian thinks it is a great idea.

He said, "As a government, a civilized government, I think this is the way to do it."

It's a process which was documented in a 2008 BBC Horizon documentary.

In the documentary a pig is put in a chamber filled with nitrogen and argon gases. Unaware of the effect the gases are having on its body the animal falls over and then gets back up, returning to its food.

The demonstration is said to show the gas does not cause pain and, in theory, the pig eventually succumbs to the deadly gas.

Michael Portillo, who is the main man featured in the documentary, said, "Not only is in painless, the person dies with euphoria."

However, there are those already opposed to the idea.

The ACLU says rather than looking for humane ways to execute people the state should reconsider the death penalty.

Ryan Kiesel, with the ACLU, said, "There's no full proof way to do something that is inherently inhumane."

Christian says the gas could be administered through a mask, a hood, or even a chamber. He says there would be no IV's, no doctors, and he believes less room for error.

Christian said, "It's a humane way. It's a quick way. It's practical."

The interim study will take place at the capitol Tuesday.

That BBC Horizon documentary is just one of the things which will be presented during the study.

Christian said, and the documentary recorded, there are some who support the death penalty but are opposed to the idea of using nitrogen because they believe it is too humane.