If new protocols are successfully developed and the change isn't blocked by court challenges, one of Oklahoma's 49 condemned inmates will soon become the first person in the US legally executed with nitrogen gas. The state—which started exploring the use of the inert gas after a botched lethal injection in 2014 halted executions—says it has made nitrogen inhalation its primary method of execution and will be using the gas when executions resume, the BBC reports. State Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the change Wednesday, saying nitrogen is easy to obtain, causes a painless death, and "requires no complex medical procedures." No other state uses the method.
Dale Baich, a lawyer for Oklahoma inmates challenging execution protocols, called for total transparency from the state. "This method has never been used before and is experimental," he said, per the Washington Post. "Oklahoma is once again asking us to trust it as officials ‘learn-on-the-job' through a new execution procedure." Nitrogen execution will involve placing a mask over a person's nose and mouth to flood their lungs with nitrogen, causing them to die from lack of oxygen in a death that Slate notes could be "mildly euphoric," similar to the "raptures" experienced by deep-sea divers low on oxygen. (A lawyer says an execution attempt in Alabama last month was "gory" and "botched.")