The killer named Kenneth Smith was executed by using nitrogen gas in the state of Alabama. His sentence was executed yesterday Thursday. This is the first case of execution by nitrogen gas in the state of Alabama and in the United States.
In 2022, Kenneth Smith’s first execution by lethal injection was attempted. However, despite several attempts, the authorities failed to insert the injection needle into Smith’s body. Later the decision to execute the sentence by injection was suspended. Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, announced a new review of the state’s death penalty. After a few months the review was concluded. The authorities decided to execute Kenneth Smith by applying nitrogen gas.
Jail officials said the process of execution started at 7:53 pm yesterday. He was declared dead around 8:25 pm.
How the death penalty was executed:
The executioners initially placed Smith on a stretcher yesterday. After that a special mask was put on his face. The mask was connected to a nitrogen-filled cylinder. There was no opportunity for oxygen to flow through this mask.
Five journalists were allowed to watch Smith’s execution yesterday. They observe the entire process from the other side of the glass wall. Those reporters who witnessed it said that Smith remained conscious for several minutes after the nitrogen administration. Then he started shaking. He kept rolling on the stretcher for two minutes. He was then seen taking deep breaths for several minutes. Then his breathing slowed down and he became lethargic.
Eyewitnesses also said Smith gave a long speech one last time before the nitrogen gas supply through the mask began. At the beginning of the speech, he said, “Tonight, Alabama authorities took humanity a step back.”
Smith’s wife and other relatives were present at the scene. Addressing them, Smith said, I am leaving the world with love, peace and joy. Love to you all.’
Following the execution, Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm held a news conference. There he was asked whether the stretcher on which Smith was rolling was expected or not. In response, Hamm said, ‘Smith seemed to want to hold his breath as long as possible. He fought against the limitations for a while. But since it’s an involuntary process and it’s difficult to breathe, it’s all to be expected.’
In 1988, Smith was convicted of murdering a woman named Elizabeth Sennett. In 2022, a majority of Supreme Court justices allowed Smith to be executed by injection. Kenneth Smith and an accomplice were hired by the woman’s husband, Charles Sennett, to kill Elizabeth Sennett. Counselors said Charles had conspired to get his wife’s insurance money. Later he committed suicide. Smith’s accomplice was also sentenced to death for the murder. This penalty was implemented in 2010.
In May 2023, Smith challenged the decision in court to seek a second execution. According to his lawyer, Smith told a local court in the state that a second attempt at execution would violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution after the first attempt failed. The amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Apart from that, he also claimed to have suffered severe physical and psychological pain after the first attempt at execution by injection failed.
UN human rights experts and lawyers also opposed Smith’s execution by nitrogen gas. However, Alabama authorities claim that this process of execution using nitrogen gas is the most painless and humane execution process known to date.
According to the prothomalo