LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

Oklahoma Approves Nitrogen Asphyxiation For Executions

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law today allowing nitrogen to be used in executions in the state in case lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional or the drugs are not available.

Oklahoma is the first state to approve such a method. It would involve placing a mask over an inmate's face and supplying pure nitrogen instead of air. The condemned person slowly asphyxiates from lack of oxygen. Besides lethal injection, other methods currently approved for use in other states are electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad.

"Nitrogen induced hypoxia is a painless form of execution that doesn't require any specific pharmaceutical compounds or any medical expertise to administer," Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, the House sponsor of the legislation, was quoted by The Tulsa World as saying. "It is a far better alternative to the electric chair should lethal injection ever become unavailable, and so I thank the governor for singing this bill into law."

Many states have experienced shortages of lethal injection drugs because manufacturers opposed to capital punishment have refused to supply them.

A study commissioned by Oklahoma and published last month concluded that "An execution protocol that induced hypoxia via nitrogen inhalation would be a humane method to carry out a death sentence."

A year ago, Oklahoma carried out a botched execution of death row inmate Clayton D. Lockett, who was given the sedative midazolam due to a shortage of the drug normally used, sodium thiopental. Lockett took 45 minutes to die as he writhed in pain on the execution gurney.

The Atlantic noted in an article published last month: "This isn't Oklahoma's first time engineering new execution methods. The modern lethal-injection protocol was first proposed by an Oklahoma state medical examiner named Jay Chapman in 1977."

In March, Utah also brought back the firing squad.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)