The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) plans to have nitrogen gas ready for executions by the end of 2023.
Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as a means to execute criminals in 2018.
Nitrogen hypoxia, also known as inert gas asphyxiation, involves forcing the criminal to breathe in oxygen-deficient air (in this case, nitrogen). Though it has never been used to conduct executions, several people have either died naturally of asphyxiation or used the method to commit suicide.
Oklahoma first approved nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2014. Alabama was the third state to approve the method, after Mississippi.
ADOC commissioner John Hamm told the press on Tuesday that the state was close to developing a protocol for the new execution method, which should be done by the end of this year. He also said that the ADOC should finish reviewing the state’s execution procedures by the end of March.
ADOC officials told a federal judge in 2021 that it had a system to perform nitrogen hypoxia but disclosed little further information. When the process is complete, death-row inmates will have a window of time to select nitrogen hypoxia as their execution method instead of lethal injection, which will remain the primary method.
Hamm’s announcement follows several botched lethal injections by Alabama corrections officials last year, including that of Kenneth Eugene Smith, a convict serving time for murdering for hire who was the subject state’s second failed execution in 2022. Earlier that year, the ADOC called off Alan Eugene Miller’s execution after officials failed to establish an IV line.
Miller argued that he filed the paperwork to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia instead but that prison officials lost his paperwork.
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