Even Americans who support the death penalty believe in safety protocols that avoid outright torture. Watching a criminal twist in anguish isn’t the goal. The objective is to, as humanely as possible; render justice for a heinous crime such as murder.
The methods used to administer the death penalty have evolved. The Wild West was notorious for hanging criminals. Much of the impetus for hanging criminals was the public spectacle. It made for a nice deterrent, or at least that was the aim.
In other civilizations, the guillotine was the prescribed method of execution. While obviously rather “quick and painless,” it was a somewhat atrocious method of execution. Even the visions of an executioner performing his ritualistic duties over a chopping block seem harsh.
Along with beheading people who committed terrible crimes, execution by electrocution is probably the most horrific way to put someone to death. The electric chair has ended the lives of many of America’s most notorious criminals.
On January 16, 1936, the electric chair even executed the so-called “Boogeyman.” But despite its ability to achieve the necessary end result, there are some unsettling things about death by electrocution. Nevertheless, along with lethal injection, the electric chair is still used in the U.S.
But the scientists working on better methods to execute a necessary evil may have discovered a new method. There is a high likelihood that Alabama will use this new method of executing death row prisoners. It’s called “nitrogen hypoxia.”
The Birmingham News reports that Alabama Attorney General James Houts believes nitrogen hypoxia could be used to execute a prisoner as soon as September 22. Alan Eugene Miller is set to be executed by lethal injection on that date.
However, A.G. Houts said in a statement to U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. that the new method could be available for Miller’s execution. Miller was convicted of capital murder for a shooting rampage at two separate businesses in Shelby County in August 1999.
Miller mercilessly killed three men. He killed Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy, and then drove to another location, where he killed Terry Jarvis. Miller said the three men were spreading rumors about him.
Alabama’s lawmakers passed a bill authorizing nitrogen hypoxia executions in 2018. This execution method replaces oxygen with nitrogen, resulting in death. Alabama’s inmates set for execution have the right to elect an alternative method.
The 2018 bill was necessary because it’s become more difficult to get the necessary substances used for lethal injection. However, many questions have arisen about whether Miller offered knowing consent for the new method. His case is still pending.
The attorney general says the final decision will be left up to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm. Nitrogen hypoxia has been approved in three U.S. states, including Oklahoma and Mississippi.
Alabama has executed 72 death row inmates since 1972. The state has one of the highest execution per capita rates in the nation. Now, Alabama may have a new method for performing a necessary evil. Many states with the death penalty will be closely watching this story.