A man, convicted in 1987 for the murder of an eight-year-old girl, has fifteen days to choose between lethal injection or inhalation of deadly gases.
After the firing squad or the electric chair, the gas chamber: conservative American states, faced with difficulties around lethal injections, are looking for alternatives from the past to carry out the execution of their prisoners sentenced to death.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court set June 8 for the execution of Frank Atwood, convicted in 1987 of the murder of an eight-year-old girl, and gave him fifteen days to choose between lethal injection or inhalation of deadly gases.
No use of this method since 1999
According to his attorney, prison authorities are considering using hydrogen cyanide, the main component of Zyklon-B, sadly associated with the Holocaust. But Frank Atwood’s mother was Jewish and had fled Austria in 1939 to escape the Nazis, said Me Joe Perkovich.
In the United States, only seven states authorize the use of lethal gas to execute prisoners sentenced to death, but in practice none have used it since 1999. Most executions take place by injecting chemicals.
Doubts about the legality of this protocol – suspected of causing illegal suffering to convicts – and the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to supply these products have, however, led to a marked decline in the death penalty in the country.
Arizona has not carried out any executions since 2014, when an inmate agonized for two hours, convulsing after being injected with lethal substances. His authorities have decided to resume the practice this year.
Another execution scheduled for next week
Before Frank Atwood, they planned to execute Clarence Dixon on May 11, convicted of the murder of a student. He too had had two weeks to request the gas chamber, in order to avoid lethal injection. His silence was worth accepting the second option.
In February, the local Jewish community had lodged a complaint, in vain, to prevent the authorities from using hydrogen cyanide. “It’s appalling that Arizona chose Zyklon-B, the chemical used by the Nazis in Auschwitz to kill over a million people,” said Tim Eckstein, who chairs the Community Relations Council. Jew of Greater Phoenix (JCRC).
In April, South Carolina also caused a stir by offering a convict the choice between the firing squad and the electric chair. His execution had been suspended in extremis by the State Supreme Court.