When your state runs out of the drugs necessary for lethal injections, it seems you have a few options. You can hold off on executing prisoners until a court of law can decide what is humane and what is cruel and unusual, or, if you're Chris Koster, you can try to go retro to exert leverage over said court.
Koster, the Attorney General of Missouri, is trying to bring back the gas chamber, which is still allowed under the state's statutes, but has not been used since the 1960s. The state has been under pressure to find new methods for executing prisoners because the companies that make the three-drug cocktail traditionally used for the death penalty will generally no longer sell to correctional facilities on moral grounds.
Although the drug shortage has affected death rows across the country, Missouri is apparently the only state to turn to a one-drug solution — in this case propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson. But many Missouri executions have been stayed in the wake of a 2012 lawsuit on behalf of 21 Missouri death row inmates questioning whether the use of propofol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Now, Koster appears to be using the gas chamber option as leverage against the courts as they debate the constitutionality of a one-drug execution.
"The Missouri death penalty statute has been, in my opinion, unnecessarily entangled in the courts for over a decade," Koster told The Associated Press in an email.
When asked if he thought gas chambers could constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Koster replied: "The premeditated murder of an innocent Missourian is cruel and unusual punishment. The lawful implementation of the death penalty, following a fair and reasoned jury trial, is not."
It's worth pointing out that although allowed by Missouri statute, the state does not currently have any gas chambers. As such, Missouri would have to actively build new gas chambers if the courts do not rule favorably on the use of propofol.