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States to try new ways of executing prisoners. Their latest idea? Opioids.

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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Oklahoma House advances measure ending electric chair executions

The Oklahoma House approved legislation Thursday to eliminate the electric chair as a method of execution, although it's been more than 50 years since the state's last electrocution.

The bill lists which execution methods are allowed, including lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia - which causes death by depleting oxygen in the blood - firing squad and any other form not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

Electrocution has not been used to execute an Oklahoma death row inmate since 1966, and a firing squad has never been used in the state.

The measure also would give the Department of Corrections' director the choice of which method to use.

House members voted 74-22 for the bill and sent it to the Senate for a vote.

Oklahoma has executed 112 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the highest per-capita rate in the nation and second overall tally only to Texas, where 537 inmates have been put to death over the last 40 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

But executions have been on hold in Oklahoma since a botched execution in 2014 and drug mix-ups during the last 2 scheduled lethal injections in 2015.

Oklahoma was the 1st state to authorize lethal injection as a method of execution, and capital punishment has strong, bipartisan support in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Lawmakers approved the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative method of execution after an inmate writhed on the gurney during a 2014 lethal injection that prison officials tried unsuccessfully to halt.

Last year, voters overwhelmingly approved a statewide referendum that enshrined the death penalty in the state constitution, making it more difficult for future legislators or the courts to end it.

Source: Associated Press, February 17, 2017

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