Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton Credit: Gil Ford Photography

If lawsuits continue to prevent Mississippi from carrying out executions, a bill that passed the House Wednesday morning could give the state more options. 

Carl Gary Simmons Jr. was the last person put to death in Mississippi, in June 2012.

Since then, as states have run out of supplies of execution drugs and several lawsuits challenged the use of other chemicals, executions have been delayed in Mississippi and other states.

The provisions of House Bill 638 state that if chemicals that replace the traditional injection cocktail — pentobarbital, a muscle relaxer and potassium chloride — meet legal resistances, an alternative sequence would be used.

The bill calls for a succession of alternative execution methods, in order: nitrogen hypoxia, firing squad and electrocution. 

Nitrogen hypoxia involves sealing the condemned in a chamber which is filled with pure nitrogen, depriving them of oxygen, thus causing death.

“The death penalty is something that should be reserved, and is reserved, for the worst offenders. If we want a death penalty in Mississippi, this legislation will allow us to do that,” said Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, who presented the bill.

During questions and answers, Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, asked Gipson, a Baptist preacher, what the Bible says about killing, grace and mercy. Bell followed up by asking Gipson whether the firing squad is inhumane and archaic.

“The state of Mississippi has chosen a humane option,” of lethal injection, Gipson said. “These liberal left wing radicals are trying to stop that.”

The bill passed 75 to 43.

Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.