On February 15, Arizona’s Jewish leaders filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections in an effort to stop the use of the cyanide gas in the state’s prison death chamber, the Equal Justice Initiative reports.
Last summer, the state renovated its gas chamber so that it could execute people using hydrogen cyanide, the type of gas that was used at Auschwitz during the Holocaust, according to the report.
“Witnessing a person being gassed to death would bring back horrendous memories of the hideous fate suffered by millions, which included my family,” said John Steiner, a San Quentin Prison employee and holocaust survivor.
Arizona has over 75 Holocaust survivors living in the state, who are horrified that their tax dollars are being used to fund the same treatment that murdered their loved ones. The American Jewish Committee is asking the court not to allow Arizona’s state prison to use cyanide gas for executions, because it’s a cruel and unusual punishment, Equal Justice Initiative reported.
The complaint stresses the horror of using this type of gas. One individual was in so much pain he repeatedly smashed his head on a metal pole, revealed the report. And in 1999, Walter Garland suffered “agonizing choking and gagging” as he took approximately 18 minutes to die.
“For Auschwitz survivors, the world will finally come apart at the seams, if in any place on the earth the use of Zyklon B in the killing of human beings is considered again,” Christoph Heubner, executive president of the International Auschwitz Committee, told Equal Justice Initiative.
Arizona currently executes its prisoners by lethal injection, but state law gives those who were condemned to death before 1992 the choice to die in the gas chamber. Arizona is one of seven states that will authorize the use of lethal gas under any circumstances, the complaint in the lawsuit says.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is currently seeking execution dates for Frank Atwood, and Clarence Dixon, who could be subject to death by lethal gas.
“Arizona has acknowledged the horrors of cyanide gas as a method of execution and eliminated it in all but a narrow set of cases,”said ACLU attorney Jared Keenan.