I’ve been wondering for years why states don’t do this for capital punishment. I can’t imagine a more cheap, pleasant, painless way to go.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Some of the objections are ridiculous. For instance, there would be no need to “clear the room” of nitrogen if you use a mask.

40 thoughts on “Nitrogen”

  1. At age 13 while uaing helium to make silly voices I got a bit too much and woke up on the ground. While the unconscious inmate might have tremors, the blackout itself is utterly painless.

  2. Do you suppose part of the gruesome outcomes of lethal injection is the condemned resisting?

    Part of what I find creepy about lethal injection execution is that just about every anesthetic these days is administered through a vein, not with a mask. Being sedated for a certain cancer-screening procedure of your lower GI tract is too much like what they do to the condemned.

    Much as that cancer-screening procedure is unpleasant, one makes a personal decision to submit to it, making helpful suggestions to the staff on how they can find a vein if they miss on the first try. Were someone trying to kill me with the IV line, even if done lawfully and even if I deserved such punishment, I would think my instinct would be to resist, maybe to flinch or fidget or tense my muscles to resist.

    So how is a mask going to help, how are they going to put it on and keep it on?

  3. I’m against capital punishment, but if we’re going to have it, I think it should be stark – e.g., firing squad, hanging, guillotine. And it should be broadcast or otherwise be made available for viewing by all – the deliberate taking of life by the State is one of the most consequential powers of the State, and we citizens have a right to see it done if we so desire. Hiding it away and trying to sanitize it is misguided at best and pusillanimous at worst.

    1. What punishment do you propose for those crimes we, as a society, have determined to be the most heinous and unforgivable?

      Would you consider life without the possibility of Parole to be a violation of the Constitutional prohibition on Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

      1. “most heinous and unforgivable”

        the only issue is one of offering a reprieve to a dead person.

        I personally think that if a state is to have capital punishment, then it needs to be a 100% conviction with absolutely no uncertainty.

        1. Having seen the government screw up, intentionally or unintentionally, so many times has turned me against the death penalty in many cases.

          It is also true that anti-death penalty groups have abused the appeals process in order to drive up costs and slow down the process.

      2. Would you consider life without the possibility of Parole to be a violation of the Constitutional prohibition on Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

        I hadn’t considered it that way.

        It is illegal to detain illegal aliens for more than a few days, so what about prison for life? Hmm.

      3. I’m not discussing my proposals for what to do instead of the death penalty; my post was about what to do since we do have it. Not interested in your tangent.

    2. There is certainly a good argument to be made against capital punishment which is too easy and too efficient. Perhaps giving the executed a choice of the method of execution would be the best policy. Inclusion of death by firing squad as one of those choices seems reasonable to me. Using nitrogen gassing as the default choice also seems reasonable.

      1. ” Inclusion of death by firing squad as one of those choices seems reasonable to me.”

        If people are willing to pay $$$ to go all the way to africa to shoot a defenseless lion/elephant – what would they pay to shoot a human.
        As hemingway put it, “There is no hunting like the hunting of man…”.

  4. “clear the room”?

    What did they do in the bad ol’ days when the “gas chamber” used cyanide or some other lethal gas? Seems like the way to “clear the room” of nitrogen would be to open the door after the condemned expires. (Maybe wear oxygen mask, too.)

    And I’m of the opinion that imprisonment is the “cruel and unusual” punishment, when compared to execution. If your goal is to remove someone from society, why then let them hang around for decades, as happened to Charlie Manson? Get it over with. And if we want torture and fear to be part of the punishment, say by subjecting the convicted to prison rape, then we should also sentence them to that, not allow it to be administered by other convicts.

    1. “clear the room”?

      How about if it’s a 30 cubic meter room just add 6 cubic meters of oxygen?

      1. Then how will you deal with the pockets of vacuum?

        (Apparently a quote from a university safety official reviewing a vacuum chamber’s doors)

    2. ‘And I’m of the opinion that imprisonment is the “cruel and unusual” punishment, when compared to execution.’ Yup. I disagree strongly with the current consensus that imprisonment is not cruel and unusual. Putting someone in a cage is insane, and completely cruel. Ancient societies couldn’t afford it, and the closest equivalent was the dungeon. Much cheaper, but completely cruel and vicious.
      Whip them and let them go, or kill them.

  5. From Wikipedia…

    Method of use
    Using hydrogen cyanide
    As implemented in the United States, the gas chamber is considered to be the most dangerous, most complicated, and most expensive method of administering the death penalty.[23][24][25] The condemned person is strapped into a chair within an airtight chamber, which is then sealed. The executioner activates a mechanism which drops potassium cyanide (or sodium cyanide[26][27]) pellets into a bath of sulfuric acid beneath the chair; the ensuing chemical reaction generates lethal hydrogen cyanide gas. Because hydrogen cyanide gas condenses at approximately 78 °F (26 °C), the temperature in the chamber (when it is in use) is maintained at at least 80 °F (27 °C).[28]

    The gas is visible to the condemned, who is advised to take several deep breaths to speed unconsciousness. Nonetheless, there are often convulsions and excessive drooling. There may also be urinating, defecating, and vomiting.[29][30]

    Following the execution the chamber is purged with air, and any remnant gas is neutralized with anhydrous ammonia, after which the body can be removed (with great caution, as pockets of gas can be trapped in the victim’s clothing).[31] Sometimes, as a safety precaution, the clothing worn by the executed person is destroyed by incineration.[32] The undertaker who handles the body wears rubber gloves for protection against any trace amounts of cyanide that might still be present on or in the body.[32]

    Excluding all oxygen
    Main article: Inert gas asphyxiation

    Nitrogen gas or oxygen-depleted air has been considered for human execution, as it can induce nitrogen asphyxiation. The victim detects little abnormal sensation as the oxygen level falls. This leads to asphyxiation (death from lack of oxygen) without the painful and traumatic feeling of suffocation, or the side effects of poisoning.

    In April 2015, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin approved a bill allowing nitrogen asphyxiation as an execution method.[33]

  6. My position on capital punishment is that it should be for those who cannot be reformed to stop committing crimes, not so much on the nature of the crime, maybe three strikes and you’re dead.

    1. Would felony failure to register your semi-automatic rifle in violation of state law count as a strike?

    2. That’s a bit silly. Think of how many innocent people are unjustly convicted of minor crimes.

      I’m going to share my one and only brush with the law. Brace yourself for a dramatic story. I was once given a ticket for illegally turning right on red. I was deeply ashamed, until I went back and realized that the sign prohibiting right turns on red wasn’t visible from the road!

      In court, before the judge heard my argument, I chatted with the cops who gave me the ticket, and with a prosecutor who was just amused by my enormous posterboard with photos of the intersection that I intended to show the judge. The prosecutor explained that if I had gotten Judge A, I would probably win, because the photos were pretty convincing, but I was about to argue before Judge B, who, in the prosecutor’s opinion, would never dismiss the case because he had no patience for people like me who want to argue about traffic tickets.

      When it was my turn, the cops coincidentally decided to go to the bathroom at the same time, and without their presence, the case was thrown out. Out in the hallway I thanked the cops, but the whole thing was an illustration of how arbitrary our justice system is. If I hadn’t been a friendly-to-cops guy with the resources to make a big attention-getting poster which amused everyone, I would have been convicted. Under your scheme, I would be only two traffic tickets away from death.

      Postscript: I brought my photos to the town’s traffic engineer, and showed him how the sign wasn’t visible. He didn’t disagree with me, but he was non-committal. The signs were never fixed.

      1. I beat a ticket years ago with photos and physics, and the fact that the cop wrote the wrong location on the ticket. But yes, there are far too many laws to treat breaking them all harshly. Of course, the solution to that is to throw out most of the federal code. The founders never intended the federal government to be a cop.

        1. Given that it involved physics, I bet your readers would enjoy hearing the details of the story some time.

      2. You must live in a pretty silly state, traffic infractions don’t qualify as crimes where I live.

        What should be the purpose of the criminal justice system?
        1. To reform the offender so they no longer offend.
        2. To deter future offending by that person.
        3. To deter others from offending.
        4. Societies method of getting revenge on an offender.
        5. To remove someone from society for a period so they can’t commit crimes during that period.

        That’s the order in which I rank those purposes of the justice system, what we have in most English speaking countries ranks them in the opposite order.

        1. But surely you have punishments for violating traffic laws? In the USA, we have different levels of “crimes”. In Bob-1’s case, he got a traffic ticket, which you can pay or contest in court. If he lost the case, he would just have to pay the ticket. It wouldn’t make him a criminal but it could affect his insurance rates.

      3. If I hadn’t been a friendly-to-cops guy with the resources to make a big attention-getting poster which amused everyone, I would have been convicted.

        I think you underestimate the value the courts place on an individual who puts forward a well researched argument, who shows up dressed nicely, and who can communicate their case in a civil manner.

        Its been a few years but the last time I was in traffic court, it was very obvious how people who put in the effort got the better end of the deal from the judge. People who showed up in ratty clothes, used janky defenses, and didn’t modify their vocabulary didn’t fare as well as the people who did.

    3. I think the type of crime should be a consideration otherwise we would be executing for crimes like spray painting, property damage, stealing from cars, shoplifting ect. Many of these are driven by drug addiction.

      Where I live, these types of crimes are considered to not be worthy of imprisonment so rather than even a modest attempt at reform, they just get turned back on the streets to be arrested a few days later for the same crimes.

      1. “otherwise we would be executing for crimes like spray painting, property damage, stealing from cars, shoplifting ect. Many of these are driven by drug addiction.”

        Self preservation is a wonderfully strong motivator.

  7. Why not CO (monoxide) – I understand it just causes people to become tired, sleepy, they doze off and then quietly expire.

    1. CO is poisonous and much more dangerous than nitrogen. Might as well use cyanide gas as CO.

      With nitrogen gas, safe execution could be as simple as bringing the condemned outside, strapping him into a chair and then strapping on him a gas mask, with the nitrogen gas fed from a portable tank. Any leaks from the setup would safely mix into the outside air.

  8. Off topic, but too good to pass up.

    It seems that the American ambassador to Germany, appointed by an ethnic-German American President, offended his hosts within hours of arrival by “ordering them what to do.”

    Germans, the Ur privileged white people, a culture based on giving and following orders, took offense?

    1. As @realdonaldtrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.

      This is what offended the Germans. It really isn’t surprising that a bunch of far left politicos are upset their corrupt business ventures with the war mongering Iranians are under threat or that the DNC media thinks propping up Iran after what they did in Syria is such a good idea.

      Our media has become so rotten over the last ten years. Is there another profession that is more unethical or unprofessional?

  9. I’ve done an altitude chamber run with the Royal Australian Air Force when I worked for them so I could fly in the jets (MB326H).
    Great fun and a great education on the insidious effect of lack of oxygen. You think you are doing fine until they stick the mask back on your face.
    I can’t imagine that lack of oxygen due to just breathing nitrogen would cause any pain etc. The human body is kind of screwed up when it comes to breathing. The urge to breathe isn’t triggered by lack of oxygen, it is triggered by build up of CO2 in the lungs. Breathe pure nitrogen and there is no CO2 buildup.
    The oxygen deficient air method is used nowadays for training civilian aviators instead of the altitude chamber method. Put on a mask and breathe air mixtures with various levels of O2.
    Used to be civilians who had some need for this (soaring pilots etc) could get a ride in an Air Force altitude chamber. No more, I’ve heard. Also no more jet rides for the base weather forecaster.

    1. We evolved to panic when in the presence of too much CO2, because it meant we were trapped somewhere or being smothered and it would motivate us to get out or fight if we could. Too much nitrogen has no such effect, because there are no natural environments in which that occurs.

    2. I, too, took a chamber ride prior to flying on the NASA KC-135 Vomit Comet back in the early 1980s. At the time, only Wright-Patterson AFB had a facility, and they put big batches of people through every time. Part of the course was taking us up to 30,000 feet, and then having us take off our oxygen masks. We would then try to fill out a form that included writing our name, then navigating an extremely simple maze, and some other tests I don’t remember. We were told that as soon as we realized we were having problems, we needed to don our masks. But the instructor said “There’s always at least one person who doesn’t.”

      I got halfway through writing my name before deciding to try the puzzle, then realized I was on the brink of passing out, and donned my mask. The recovery was so instantaneous that it was startling. I saw that most of the others had already donned their masks. But there was one guy who was sitting there stupidly trying to do his puzzle. The instructor stood behind him, watching carefully, and motioned for us to watch. This poor guy would have gone on to die without a care in the world. The instructor quickly stepped in, and put his mask on, and the guy startled back into reality.

      I have to say, it was the most pleasant sensation I’ve ever experienced in terms of peace and calm. When my time comes, I would opt for this.

      However, I too have become a hard-liner on the death penalty after seeing Robert Swan Mueller III having knowingly sent several innocent men to prison to protect Whitey Bulger. I have to believe that is more common than not. Thanks, Bob.

  10. Insufficient opportunities for graft. The whole production would cost a couple hundred dollars using nitrogen.
    Regarding fighting traffic tickets, be carefull not to get caught engineering without a license. ’cause engineering is hard.

  11. Back in the early space shuttle days one test happened to involve putting a nitrogen purge on the engine compartment at the back end of the shuttle. The purge was cleared after the test so technicians could enter thru an opening. However one day signals got crossed and the “go for entrance” was given before the nitrogen was cleared by pumping air in. Three technicians started into the compartment. The first collapsed, his buddy rushed to help him and also collapsed, the third tried to help but wasn’t completely inside when someone realised what happened and tried to stop him. My recollection is that the first two died immediately and the third either died later or was severely injured. All this was from breathing nitrogen.
    NASA made a cautionary mandatory film later for personnel to watch called “Three Breaths to Die”. As I recall several heads rolled later after analysis of the accident. As I also recall they were probably the wrong heads . Anyway Nitrogen seems effective and humane killer if you are looking for one.

Comments are closed.