The state of Alabama (southern United States) executed prisoner Kenneth Eugene Smith this Thursday suffocating it with nitrogen gas, a method never tried beforeas reported by the authorities.
To Smith, sentenced to death for murdering a woman for hire in 1988he was declared dead at 8:25 p.m. local time (02:25 GMT on Friday) after having inhaled nitrogen gas through a mask and having run out of oxygen.
His last words, already with the mask on, were: “Tonight Alabama makes humanity take a step back. Thank you for supporting me. I love you all.”
Journalists who were eyewitnesses to the execution recounted that, after the gas began to flow, Smith writhed for a couple of minutes and was then seen breathing heavily for several more minutes.
The director of the Alabama Department of Corrections, John Hamm, said in a subsequent press conference that The prisoner’s shakes were “involuntary”, but nothing out of what was expected.
Nitrogen gas flowed for about 15 minutes
The Supreme Court of the United States minutes before the execution he rejected the last appeal that the prisoner’s defense had presented this same Thursday by 6 votes to 3, thus giving the green light to the start of the procedure.
Progressive Sonia Sotomayor, one of the three judges who voted to stop the execution, argued that “having failed to kill Smith on his first attempt, Alabama has chosen him as its ‘guinea pig’ to try an execution method never used before.”
Alabama already tried to execute Smith in November 2022, but the executioner was unable to introduce the intravenous lines. As part of a later agreement, Alabama agreed not to try to kill him again with lethal injection.
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The Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations for Human Rights, International Amnesty, Human Rights Watch or the Community of San Egidio had asked the United States in recent days not to allow the execution.
Smith was on death row for having murdered a woman, Elizabeth Sennett, in 1988, at the request of her husband, Charles Sennett, who was trying to collect compensation. Smith and an accomplice, John Forrest Parker, received $1,000 each.
Sennett committed suicide a week after the murderwhen he realized that the authorities considered him a suspect, while Parker was also sentenced to death and was executed in 2010 by lethal injection.
“We have forgiven the three people involved years ago”Mike Sennett also stated at a press conference with his two brothers, the sons of the murdered woman, after witnessing the execution of the last of those involved, a feeling they described as “bittersweet.”
“Evil acts have consequences”
All eyes were on Alabama and its new method of executionthe first developed since lethal injection was introduced in 1982, which has been the majority during the last four decades in the country, displacing the electric chair.
Alabama decided to try asphyxiation with nitrogen gas due to the difficulty they have faced in recent years States that still use capital punishment to acquire lethal drugs given the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to allow them to be used for this purpose.
In addition, complications that have arisen in several executions since 2014 – some in Alabama – have led to the method being questioned as inhumane and the subject of legal disputes for years.
Other states were very awaiting the execution in Alabama, to also introduce the nitrogen asphyxiation method. Oklahoma and Mississippi, in fact, have already approved the method, but have not yet developed a protocol for using it or built the facilities.
Since the Supreme Court reintroduced the death penalty in 1976, 1,583 prisoners have been executed in the United States, 73 of them in Alabama.