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House passes bill ending electric chair executions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House approved legislation Thursday to eliminate the electric chair as a method of execution, although it's been more than 50 years since the state's last electrocution.

The bill lists which execution methods are still allowed, including lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia  which causes death by using nitrogen gas to deplete oxygen in the blood  firing squad and any other method not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

Electrocution has not been used to execute an Oklahoma death row inmate since 1966. 

Oklahoma is looking to get rid of the method because of costs, said the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Harold Wright of Weatherford. The state's electric chair is in storage and does not operate, said Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. 

The measure also would give the Department of Corrections' director the choice of which method to use, although the state's current execution protocols only deal with lethal injection.

House members voted 74-22 in support of the bill and sent it to the Senate.

Oklahoma has executed 112 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the highest per-capita rate in the nation. The overall tally is second only to Texas, where 537 inmates have been put to death over the last 40 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma was the first state to authorize lethal injection as a method of execution, and capital punishment has strong and bipartisan support in the Oklahoma Legislature.

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