“I love you all”: in the USA, for the first time in the world, a prisoner was executed by nitrogen inhalation

“I love you all”: in the USA, for the first time in the world, a prisoner was executed by nitrogen inhalation

On January 25, the world’s first execution of a prisoner by nitrogen inhalation was carried out in the state of Alabama (USA). Such a punishment was awarded to 58-year-old Kenneth Smith, who was convicted of a contract murder that he committed more than 30 years ago.

Alabama prison officials have kept many details of how they will use the appropriate execution method from the public. Witnesses who arrived at the death chamber saw Smith tied to a gurney and wearing a mask that covered his entire face, writes The Washington Post.

Despite the historic nature of the execution, only five independent witnesses from the mass media were able to observe the process. Smith’s family, as well as the family of his victim Elizabeth Sennett, were also in attendance.

Today, Alabama forced humanity to take a step back. I go with love, peace and light. Thank you for supporting me. I love you all“, Smith said in his closing remarks. He also turned toward the examination room where his family was sitting and, using sign language, said, “I love you.”

Kenneth Smith. PHOTO: AR

According to eyewitnesses, Smith was conscious for at least two minutes while the gas entered his mask. He was shaking and squirming for at least two minutes on the gurney, after which he breathed in nitrogen deeply for two minutes, so for a while witnesses could not tell if he was breathing.

Speaking to reporters after the execution, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John C. Hamm called Smith’s shaking and writhing “involuntary.”

Alabama officials previously tried to execute Smith by lethal injection in 2022, but failed. States that still use the death penalty have had trouble obtaining lethal injection drugs, with lawmakers and officials using alternative methods as fallbacks. Prison officials were unable to find a vein to put Smith on a drip before his death warrant expired at midnight.

Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma approved nitrogen hypoxia, while other states brought back firing squad, a long-defunct execution method.

Doctors and human rights advocates have argued for months that Alabama’s attempts to use an untested execution method on Smith amounted to human experimentation, and Smith’s lawyers said they would appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. However, the country’s highest court rejected the request to cancel the execution.

It will be recalled that Kenneth Eugene Smith was convicted of the contract killing of the preacher’s wife in 1988. Prosecutors said Smith and another man were each paid $1,000 to kill Elizabeth Sennett by her husband, who was “deep in debt” and wanted an insurance payout.

Read also: In Japan, a man who set fire to an anime studio was sentenced to death, killing 36 people

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