The correction department has actually spent much more than $2,000 on ingredients to make cyanide gas, the same provided in Auschwitz


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The state prison in Florence, Arizona, homes the gas chamber. Built in 1949 and also mothballed because that 22 years, it’s been dusted off and also ‘refurbished’. Photograph: AP
The state jail in Florence, Arizona, homes the gas chamber. Built in 1949 and also mothballed for 22 years, it’s been dusted off and also ‘refurbished’. Photograph: AP

The state that Arizona is preparing to kill fatality row inmates using hydrogen cyanide, the very same lethal gas that was deployed in ~ Auschwitz.

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Documents obtained by the Guardian disclose that Arizona’s room of corrections has actually spent much more than $2,000 in procuring the ingredients to make cyanide gas. The department bought a solid brick of potassium cyanide in December because that $1,530.

It additionally purchased salt hydroxide pellets and sulfuric mountain which room intended to be provided to create the deadly gas. The gas room itself, developed in 1949 and disused because that 22 years, has been dusted off and, follow to the department, “refurbished”.

Over the past few months the Republican-controlled state has actually moved aggressively come restart its deep flawed execution system. The death penalty has remained in abeyance in Arizona for 7 years following the gruesomely botched lethal injection that Joseph wood in 2014.


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Last month, the Guardian revealed the Arizona spent a jaw-dropping $1.5m ~ above a batch that pentobarbital in October, a sedative which it now hopes to usage as its main lethal injection method.

The Guardian’s documents, acquired through public records requests, present that public official have also gone to substantial lengths come revive the state’s mothballed gas chamber, housed in ~ ASPC-Florence. A collection of exam were conducted last august to appraise that is “operability”.

Seals on windows and also the door were confirm to certain airtightness, and drains cleared of blockage. Water was used in the test in location of the deadly chemicals, v a exhilaration grenade ignited come simulate the gas.

Some the the techniques used to check the safety of the chamber to be astonishingly primitive, the documents reveal. Jail officials checked for gas seepages v a candle.


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Arizona invested $1.5m top top a distribution of pentobarbital in October, a sedative which deserve to be provided for a lethal injection. Photograph: APThe fire of the candle was organized up come the sealed windows and door and if the flame stayed steady and also did not flicker the chamber was understood to it is in airtight. In December staff declared the ship “operationally ready”.

The ready of cyanide gas executions gift Arizona fatality row inmates v a Hobson’s an option between 2 questionable means to die. Must they opt for the gas chamber, they should be responsibility of the last time anybody was gassed by the state.

Walter LaGrand, a German national, to be sentenced to fatality for a 1982 bungled armed bank robbery in which a guy was killed. The Tucson Citizen released an eyewitness account the his 1999 execution in i beg your pardon he presented “agonizing choking and also gagging” and took 18 minutes to die.

“The witness room fell silent as a mist the gas rose, much like heavy steam in a shower, and Walter LaGrand ended up being enveloped in a cloud that cyanide vapor,” the citizen reported. “He began coughing violent – three or 4 loud hacking – and made a gagging sound prior to falling forward.”

The newspaper recorded that over countless minutes the inmate’s head and arms twitched, and his hands were “red and also clenched”.

Should one inmate select death by lethal injection – the technique widely deployed among death penalty claims as the supposedly scientific and also humane alternate to gas, electrical chair or firing squad – lock will also find the last time that was used in Arizona it was anything however humane.

Joseph hardwood took nearly two hours to die as soon as Arizona experimented on him through 15 sheep of a then little-used concoction that lethal injection drugs. One eye witness told the Guardian the he counted timber gasp and also gulp 660 times.

In its present rush come restart executions, Arizona has actually selected two inmates as most likely candidates come go an initial out that a present death row population of 115 people. They space Frank Atwood, 65, sentenced to fatality for killing an eight-year-old girl, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, in 1984; and also Clarence Dixon, 65, judge of the 1978 killing of a college student, Deana Bowdoin.

A member the Atwood’s legitimate team, Joseph Perkovich of Phillips Black, said the Guardian that it was improper for the state to be hurrying towards setup an execution day when the pandemic had actually impeded investigation into his client’s possible innocence for an ext than a year. Together for Atwood’s an option between lethal injection or gas, Perkovich said: “Neither choice is tenable.”


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The execution room at the Arizona state jail in Florence. Photograph: ReutersThe attorney discussed that there is a discrepancy between the potassium cyanide that has actually been obtained by the corrections department and the state’s execution protocol which stipulates that sodium cyanide should be used. “This is not a small detail – the specific compound is vitally important,” the said.

Perkovich included that “Frank Atwood is ready to die. He is a guy of Greek Orthodox faith and also is preparing for this moment. However he go not want to it is in tortured and also subjected come a botched execution.”

Inmates who pick the gas chamber are strapped into a chair in the center of the vessel. Coloured levers room then supplied to drop the salt cyanide right into a pot the sulfuric acid under the chair, releasing the deadly hydrogen cyanide into the air.

Once the prisoner is dead, the gas is neutralized with ammonia till the room is for sure to enter. “As a preventive method,” the death chamber protocol says, “it is recommended that the team remove the body wear gas masks and also rubber gloves and that the hair that the deceased inmate it is in ruffled in order to permit any residually trapped gas to escape.”

The documents record how prison staff engaged in duty play during last year tests. Guards acted out together inmates who withstood going to your death, screaming: “This is murder”, “I’m innocent”, “You’re putting me down choose an animal”, and also “This is against everything America stands for”.

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Despite Arizona’s best efforts to existing its gas chamber together a trustworthy institution, the horrors of the previous hang heavily over it. The Nazis offered hydrogen cyanide under the trade name Zyklon B to kill an ext than 1 million world in gas chambers in Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

Robert Dunham, executive director that the fatality Penalty information Center, said: “You need to wonder what Arizona was reasoning in believing the in 2021 it is acceptable to execute world in a gas chamber with cyanide gas. Walk they have anybody study the background of the Holocaust?”