After refurbishing a gas chamber that hasn’t been used in more than 20 years, Arizona correction officials have procured ingredients for hydrogen cyanide–also known as Zyklon B and used during the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis at Auschwitz and other extermination camps–and have taken steps to use the lethal gas to kill inmates on death row, reports the Washington Post. Invoices show that the state purchased a brick of potassium cyanide, sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid, and a report details the considerable efforts taken to deem the gas chamber at a prison in Florence “operationally ready.” However, critics point out that, in addition to its use in the mass killings of Jewish people by the Nazis, the gas has produced some of the most botched and disturbing executions in the United States.
In a statement, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said it was “prepared to perform its legal obligation and commence the execution process as part of the legally imposed sentence, regardless of method selected.” The department pointed to the Arizona statute allowing a defendant sentenced to death to choose between lethal injection or lethal gas at least 20 days before the execution date. Lethal gas is permitted for executions in six other states: Alabama, California, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming. In Arizona, where 115 inmates are on death row, hydrogen cyanide has been deployed before. The state has killed 37 people with lethal gas, most before 1950, and has executed two inmates using the same method after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in 1976. In those cases, witnesses recounted excruciating deaths. As the state readies for renewed use of the gas chamber, execution dates have not been set for convicted murderers Clarence Dixon and Frank Atwood.