The state House passed the bill (85-10) with no debate on Tuesday, moving Oklahoma closer to becoming the first state to use “nitrogen hypoxia” as a backup method of execution if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional or the deadly drugs become unavailable.
The process would require an inmate to be in a sealed chamber or wear a special mask, depleting the supply of Oxygen and replacing it with Nitrogen, causing the painless death.
“Nitrogen hypoxia is a better way. It's a more humane way. I believe the use of nitrogen hypoxia will be the thing of the future once it’s passed in Oklahoma," Rep. Mike Christian (R- Oklahoma city) who authored the bill said.
Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol has been under scrutiny since the troubled April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett, who was twisting and mumbling on the gurney for 43 minutes, after staff failed to place his sedative IV properly.
He died of a buildup of lethal injection chemical in his tissue, prompting Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to order a complete review of his execution.
The state resumed executing its death row felons using lethal injections, using the same sedatives that had caused problems during Lockett’s procedure.
In January, the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked the execution of three Oklahoma inmates who challenged the state’s lethal injection procedure.
The bill now moves to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration. Oklahoma Governor has not commented on the bill.