After a seven year hiatus following the gruesomely botched lethal injection of Joseph Wood in 2014, Arizona is ready to fire up it’s gas chamber and start executing death row inmates. This time, however, Arizona will use hydrogen cyanide, the same lethal gas that was deployed at Auschwitz.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian through public record requests:
- Arizona’s department of corrections has spent more than $2,000 in procuring the ingredients to make cyanide gas.
- The department bought a solid brick of potassium cyanide in December for $1,530.
- The Department also purchased sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid, which are intended to be used to generate the deadly gas.
- The gas chamber itself, built in 1949 and disused for 22 years, has been dusted off and, according to the department, “refurbished”.
Documents also reveal some very primitive methods in testing the safety of the chamber.
- Prison guards used a candle to check for gas seepage.
- They held the flame of the candle up to the sealed windows and door. If the flame remained steady and did not flicker, they declared the chamber airtight. In December staff declared the vessel “operationally ready.”
Documents also reveal that guards engaged in a role playing exercise during last year’s tests. “Guards acted out as inmates who resisted going to their death, screaming: ‘This is murder,’ ‘I’m innocent,’ ‘You’re putting me down like an animal’, and ‘This is against everything America stands for'”.
Despite Arizona’s best efforts to present its gas chamber as a reputable institution, the horrors of the past hang heavily over it. The Nazis used hydrogen cyanide under the trade name Zyklon B to kill more than 1 million people in gas chambers in Auschwitz and other extermination camps.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said: “You have to wonder what Arizona was thinking in believing that in 2021 it is acceptable to execute people in a gas chamber with cyanide gas. Did they have anybody study the history of the Holocaust?”