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Louisiana Republicans refuse requests from Jewish advocates to prohibit the use of nitrogen gas as an execution method

Death Row building at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Via Rod Tucker/Shutterstock)

A committee of conservative lawmakers in Louisiana blocked a proposal from the state’s Jewish community to outlaw nitrogen gas as a method of execution on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Alabama became the first state to use nitrogen gas for executions, followed by several other Republican-led states adopting the method. Critics argue it is cruel.

Members of Louisiana’s Jewish community oppose the method for another reason, citing its painful reminder of the Holocaust, when Nazis used lethal gas to murder millions of Jews in Europe.

“I cannot stay silent about an execution method that deeply hurts our community and shows a complete lack of respect for our shared trauma,” said Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez of Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation in Metairie, Louisiana.

While a bill to eliminate nitrogen hypoxia from state executions moved forward in the Republican-controlled Senate, it was rejected by a House legislative committee on Tuesday. During the hearing, Republican committee members and others dismissed comparisons to the Holocaust made by Jewish advocates, arguing that executions of convicted criminals are not equivalent.

The Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester (Via Rod Tucker/Shutterstock)

“We’re not discussing innocent children, men, or women… We’re talking about criminals who were convicted by a jury of 12,” said Republican state Rep. Tony Bacala.

The committee voted 8-3 along party lines against the bill, likely ending its chances with less than two weeks remaining in the legislative session.

The proposal faced tough odds in Louisiana’s largely Republican legislature, which strongly supports capital punishment. Under new conservative Governor Jeff Landry, lawmakers recently expanded allowable execution methods to include nitrogen gas and electrocution in February. Previously, lethal injection was the only method, which had been paused for 14 years due to a lack of necessary drugs, prompting Louisiana and other states to consider alternatives like firing squads.

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