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Louisiana might remove nitrogen gas as an execution option


Louisiana might remove nitrogen gas as an execution option

Apr 16, 2024 | 4:02 pm ET
By Piper Hutchinson
Louisiana Senate committee OKs bill to remove nitrogen gas from approved execution methods
A federal appellate court this week refused to throw out a ban on housing incarcerated youth at Angola. (Photo credit: Jarvis DeBerry/Louisiana Illuminator)

A Louisiana Senate committee unanimously advanced a bill that would remove nitrogen gas asphyxiation from the approved list of execution methods.

The controversial method, which has only been used once, was added as an approved method during a special session on crime earlier this year. Louisiana law also allows for lethal injection and electrocution to be used in executions. 

The bill, Senate Bill 430 by Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews, D-Monroe, advanced without objection from the Senate Committee on Judiciary B . Three committee members, Sens. Chair Mike Reese, R-Leesville, Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, and Jean-Paul Coussan, R-Lafayette, had voted for the bill to add nitrogen gas earlier this year. 

Alabama became the first state to execute someone via nitrogen hypoxia in January. Kenneth Eugene Smith faced the death penalty for a 1988 murder. Since he was executed, multiple states have looked to add the method. 

Through nitrogen hypoxia, a mask is affixed to the condemned person’s face. Pure nitrogen gas is pumped through, causing the individual to die from a lack of oxygen. 

Jackson-Andrews bill is supported by the Jews Against Gassing Coalition, an organization of Jewish Louisiana residents who oppose the use of gas for state-sanctioned deaths. 

Several members of the group testified in favor of the proposal, noting the similarity between nitrogen gas asphyxiation and the gassing of Jews during the Holocaust. 

“We do not suggest comparisons to the atrocities of Nazi Germany under which millions of our relatives were murdered,” Aaron Bloch, a representative of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, said. “Still, we cannot imagine it possible that Jewish communities anywhere could stand by while prisoners are executed in our names using any variation of that mechanism.” 

Jackson-Andrews bill will next be considered by the Senate.