[JURIST] The Mississippi House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [HB 638 materials] Wednesday that would allow execution by firing squad, nitrogen gas or electrocution if the current method of execution, lethal injection, is deemed unconstitutional by a court. The legislation outlines a process wherein nitrogen gas is the first alternative, followed by the firing squad, then electrocution. Various cases across state courts have raised issues with the drug protocol used in lethal injections. The last time Mississippi executed an inmate was 2012 as it has not been able to obtain the drugs to carry out executions. There are currently 47 inmates on death row, with some being on the list for decades [AP report]. The bill now moves to the Senate for debate.
The death penalty has been a pressing issue across the country. This month a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio refused to lift [JURIST report] a preliminary injunction that delays executions in Ohio. Last month Judge Michael Merz blocked [JURIST report] Ohio's lethal injection protocol by deeming it unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. In January the US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to consider a challenge to Alabama's death penalty system. In December a report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) [advocacy website] found that the use of capital punishment in the US is at a 20-year low [JURIST report].