Inmate Requests Derail Midazolam Litigation

Jul 11, 2018

Credit EJI

A lawsuit challenging Alabama’s lethal injection process took an unexpected turn yesterday. Eight of the inmate plaintiffs asked to be put to death instead by the state’s newly-approved execution method – inhaling nitrogen gas.

Both the Alabama attorney general's office and lawyers for inmates submitted a joint motion to dismiss the litigation yesterday. Lawyers say the inmates' claims challenging Alabama’s use of midazolam in executions as inhumane are now moot, since their pending executions will now be carried out by use of nitrogen.

Executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center Robert Dunham says it may take some time before inmates see a nitrogen-equipped death chamber in Alabama. Dunham says it will take time for the state to put an approved protocol in place and, because Alabama will likely be the first state to use the method, that will bring additional legal challenges.

Breathing nitrogen causes oxygen depletion in the blood stream. Previously, Alabama carried out its executions by lethal injection and by electrocution. Alabama is the third state to authorize executions by nitrogen hypoxia, but no state has yet used nitrogen in an execution.