It’s been more than four years since our state carried out an execution.
That’s because the wrong drug was used to kill Charles Warner and was almost used again in Richard Glossip’s execution.
Last year, officials said they will now use nitrogen gas – a protocol they’ve kept quiet on until now.
Attorney General Mike Hunter is committed to keeping the death penalty in Oklahoma.
“We’re committed to it, but it’s taken longer than we’d like,” Hunter said.
The last execution was Charles Warner’s in January 2015.
It was later discovered the wrong drug was used to kill Warner.
“The challenge is we have to obtain a device that facilitates the introduction of nitrogen gas into the individual’s system,” Hunter said.
He says that’s the reason for the delay.
Nitrogen gas will replace lethal injection.
He tells News 4 that he expects to secure a device to administer the nitrogen within the next few months.
“Manufacturers of equipment like this are concerned that there’s going to be negative reaction on the part of a very powerful interest group in the country, those that oppose the death penalty,” Hunter said.
Undoubtedly, legal challenges are ahead.
The fight to use the sedative Midazolam in Richard Glossip’s case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The death row inmates lost by one vote.
“The way Oklahoma proposes to do it with the mask is going to raise a lot of problems, and it’s going to be scrutinized because it seems, to me, that it could possibly be in violation of the 8th amendment, cruel and unusual punishment,” criminal defense attorney David McKenzie said.
“Our research with regard to nitrogen gas is that it’s the most commonly used means by which assisted suicide is carried out in states and countries that allow that, so there’s a good deal of experience with regard to its effectiveness and with regard to its painlessness,” Hunter said.
While other states have moved to abolish the death penalty, Hunter says Oklahomans and victims’ families are for it.
“We stay in close communication with the families. It’s an important part of what we do, and I’ve got a responsibility not only to the state but to those families that justice is done, and I’m committed to that,” Hunter said.
Oklahoma and just two other states have chosen to use the nitrogen gas method.
47 inmates are currently on Oklahoma’s death row.