State House Committee approves nitrogen execution for death row inmates

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A bill to allow death row inmates to be executed by nitrogen gas passed the Alabama House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Under existing law, a capital defendant may choose to be executed by means of lethal injection or electrocution. SB128, sponsored by Montrose-Republican State Sen. Tripp Pittman, would allow the condemned to choose execution by nitrogen hypoxia if lethal injection is unavailable, or if they so elect.

The method, which the Death Penalty Information Center says never been used to execute someone, seals the inmate in an airtight chamber pumped full of nitrogen gas, causing death by a lack of oxygen. Many experts believe those who die by nitrogen asphyxiation usually never know what hit them.

Pittman says it’s a more humane way to die. He also believes the state needs an alternative method of execution as lethal injection continues to face legal challenges.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center two other states — Oklahoma and Mississippi — have also approved to the use of nitrogen gas as a back-up method of execution, but have yet to use it.

The Senate voted in favor of the legislation, 29 to 0, in February. It now moves to the full House of consideration.