By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill Wednesday that would allow death row inmates to select death by nitrogen hypoxia as one of the three approved death penalty methods used by the state of Alabama.
Senate Bill 272 is sponsored by state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.
“We have decided in this state that the death penalty is appropriate in Alabama for certain heinous offenses,” Pittman said. “We had a prisoner who wanted death by firing squad a couple of years ago, and I brought a bill to let him do that; but after looking into it, firing squad is not a humane way of killing people. With lethal injection we have had some problems with the availability of certain cocktails. Execution by nitrogen hypoxia has been approved by only one other state.”
“We all breathe in 72 percent nitrogen all the time,” Pittman said. “It is a very humane method of terminating life. It is like when a plane suddenly loses atmospheric pressure. You would simply go to sleep and not wake up. Golfer Payne Stewart is the best example of that. It is something that is available. We are taking the firing squad off the table. You don’t have to find a vein – like in lethal injection. Life without parole is not a good option. We spend millions on prison healthcare now. There are problems with electrocution.”
Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, asked what state has passed this.
Pittman said, “The state of Oklahoma passed this bill. Nobody has actually chosen this.”
Senator Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, asked, “How long does that take?”
Pittman said, “A few seconds, and you pass out in just a few breaths. Within two minutes you would be dead. This would be a choice for the inmate. You would simply reduce the pressure in the room.”
Sen. Linda Coleman Madison, D-Birmingham, said, “I am opposed to the death penalty; but I do prefer this choice over the ones that we have.”
Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, recommended that the bill be given a favorable report.
The committee voted 11-1 to give the bill a favorable report. The bill is now available for consideration by the full Senate.