Arizona officials are procuring ingredients for the lethal gas used at Nazi extermination camps, including Auschwitz, in the hope of using it on death row inmates. Arizona's Department of Corrections has spent more than $2,000 on ingredients to make the lethal hydrogen cyanide gas and has also refurbished a gas chamber at a prison in Florence, where the executions would be carried out, reports the Guardian. Tests in August appraised the operability and airtightness of the chamber, constructed in 1949 and last used in 1999, which is now "operationally ready." The state still plans to carry out lethal injections, despite a shortage of execution drugs, having spent $1.5 million on pentobarbital in October. But the idea is to have death row inmates choose between lethal injection or gas ahead of their execution, as allowed by a state statue.
Inmates would be strapped to a chair in the gas chamber. Sodium cyanide would then be dropped into sulfuric acid beneath the chair, creating hydrogen cyanide gas, also known as Zyklon B. The last person executed by gas, armed robber Walter LaGrand, suffered an "agonizing" death that took 18 minutes in 1999, according to the Tucson Citizen. He coughed and gagged before falling forward and twitching for several minutes. The Republican-controlled state has held off on executions since the botched 2014 lethal injection of Joseph Wood, who took almost two hours and 15 injections to die. Convicted murderers Clarence Dixon and Frank Atwood are likely to be the next to face execution. A lawyer for Dixon denounces this "dangerous turn to the past," per the Post, while a lawyer for Atwood tells the Guardian that neither lethal injection nor lethal gas is "tenable." (Read more Arizona stories.)