Oklahoma state officials announced a new plan on Wednesday to use nitrogen gas for inmate execution instead of lethal injection drugs, making the state the first to solely use gas in the execution process, the Associated Press reports.
The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office and the Department of Corrections will work together over the next few months to establish protocol for the use of the gas, in preparation for the state's resumption of using the death penalty, which was put on hold in 2014. Despite working toward obtaining lethal injections for inmate executions, state officials weren't able to obtain the drugs and faced opposition from drugmakers, the AP reports.
"We can no longer sit on the sidelines and wait on the drugs," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter told the AP. "Using [nitrogen] will be effective, simple to administer, easy to obtain and requires no complex medical procedures." Hunter pointed to research of the use of inert gases as a result of its growing use in assisted suicides, according to the AP.
The state's complicated and questionable legal history with death penalty executions makes any killing method changes likely to "trigger a flurry of legal challenges," according to the AP. Oklahoma put executions to a halt after a series of lethal injection mix-ups and mishaps. Oklahoma legislature approved nitrogen gas as a potential execution method in the state after the complications with legal injections.
Seventeen inmates in Oklahoma are awaiting set execution dates, the AP reports. Court filings show the attorney general's office will require set execution dates to be at least five months after the office release gas-use protocols.