The state of Alabama conducted the first-ever execution by nitrogen gas.
“It marked the first time that a new execution method has been used in the United States since lethal injection, now the most commonly used method, was introduced in 1982,” the Associated Press reports.
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) January 26, 2024
Officials performed the execution on Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, who was convicted in a 1988 murder-for-hire killing of a preacher’s wife.
The execution took place in the death house at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.
The introduction of the new execution method has put the death penalty back in the limelight.
Alabama execution using nitrogen gas, the first ever, again puts US at front of death penalty debate https://t.co/LxtaUaVUKN
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 26, 2024
From the Associated Press:
The execution took about 22 minutes from the time between the opening and closing of the curtains to the viewing room. Smith appeared to remain conscious for several minutes. For at least two minutes, he appeared to shake and writhe on the gurney, sometimes pulling against the restraints. That was followed by several minutes of heavy breathing, until breathing was no longer perceptible.
In a final statement, Smith said, “Tonight Alabama causes humanity to take a step backwards. … I’m leaving with love, peace and light.”
He made the “I love you sign” with his hands toward family members who were witnesses. “Thank you for supporting me. Love, love all of you,” Smith said.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the execution was justice for the murder-for-hire killing of 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett in 1988.
“After more than 30 years and attempt after attempt to game the system, Mr. Smith has answered for his horrendous crimes,” Ivey said in a statement. “I pray that Elizabeth Sennett’s family can receive closure after all these years dealing with that great loss.”
Mike Sennett, the victim’s son, said Thursday night that Smith “had been incarcerated almost twice as long as I knew my mom.”
CBS Mornings aired this video report:
A convicted killer in Alabama was executed Thursday night using nitrogen gas — a method that had never been used in an execution in the U.S. or tested.
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) January 26, 2024
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Alabama is ready to help other states use the same method of execution.
An Alabama man was executed yesterday — becoming the first person in the U.S. to be executed via nitrogen gas.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 26, 2024
Per ABC News:
The United States Supreme Court denied Smith’s last-ditch appeal on Thursday, asking for a stay of the execution, which was set for 7 p.m. ET.
He and his attorneys had argued that execution by nitrogen gas would constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment and that he “is suffering mentally and physically from the posttraumatic stress” of the botched execution attempt, documents show.
Smith was one of three people in Alabama whose executions were botched in 2022, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit that provides data and analysis on capital punishment.
The Supreme Court rejected a previous appeal Wednesday evening, allowing Alabama officials to proceed with the execution.
Alabama is one of three states, including Mississippi and Oklahoma, that allows nitrogen gas to be used as a method of execution, but it has never been carried out before.