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Louisiana governor signs bill into law expanding execution methods to include nitrogen gas and electrocution

The tough-on-crime bill package also eliminates parole and lowers the age to be tried as an adult to 17

Julia Reinstein
Tuesday 05 March 2024 18:48 GMT
Executing Alabama inmate with nitrogen gas would be 'torture', says UN official

Louisiana governor Jeff Landry has signed a bill into law that will expand execution methods in the state to include nitrogen gas and electrocution.

The new legislation is part of a larger package of bills focused on crime, which the state’s Republican-led legislature passed during a special session.

In addition to lethal injection, the death penalty in Louisiana can now be administered via nitrogen gas and electrocution.

The package of newly signed bills also eliminates parole for nearly all people convicted of crimes after 1 August and lowers the age to be tried as an adult for all crimes to 17.

Mr Landry, a Republican, signaled his support for the “tough-on-crime” bills last week, and signed them into law on Tuesday, saying they will “start to make Louisiana safe.”

“Today we bring some justice to victims,” Mr Landry said.

The bill’s passage comes just over a month after Alabama put a man to death with nitrogen gas, the first execution to use this method in US history.

Though officials said those executed by this procedure would lose consciousness seconds after the nitrogen gas was administered, Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, appeared conscious for several minutes after the procedure began. He exhibited seizure-like movements and laboured breathing and took 22 minutes to die.

It has been more than 14 years since Louisiana last killed a death row inmate. Mr Landry’s predecessor, John Bel Edwards, opposed capital punishment based on his Catholic faith.

Louisiana isn’t the only state that has pushed to legalize new methods of execution, largely due to the difficulty in obtaining lethal injection drugs. Death by firing squad has been authorized in Idaho, Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

In addition to Louisiana and Alabama, nitrogen gas executions are legal in Mississippi and Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Electrocution is authorised in eight states, but lethal injection is still prioritized in seven of them as the default method.

Many Jewish people in Louisiana have been outspoken in opposing executions by nitrogen gas, a method reminiscent of the way millions were murdered during the Holocaust. In a Verite News editorial, Loyola University New Orleans professor Naomi Yavneh Klos called the method “deeply troubling.”

“As Jewish citizens of Louisiana, we find the use of any form of gas for state executions a violation of our ethical principles and of Judaism’s deep commitment to innate human dignity,” she wrote.

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