Kenneth Smith, the first prisoner to be executed with nitrogen

A man sentenced to death in the United States became the first prisoner to be executed with nitrogen in the United States.

Kenneth Smith had been serving a prison sentence for murder since 1996 after he and another person stabbed Elizabeth Sennett, the wife of a preacher, in 1988.

His accomplice John Forrest Parker died in 2010; But Smith managed to avoid his grief throughout the years.

These two men received approximately $1,000 each from Reverend Charles Sennett; who had financial problems and wanted to collect on his wife's insurance.

A jury in Alabama decided on a life sentence, but a judge decided to sentence Smith to death.

State authorities attempted to execute the 58-year-old with lethal injection in 2022. Things didn't go as expected as there was a problem inserting an IV.

After a heated legal debate, Alabama state authorities executed Kenneth Smith with this nitrogen gas on January 25th.

“Tonight, Alabama is making humanity take a step back. Thanks for your support. “I love you all,” were his last words.

The court approved the nitrogen execution

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall appealed to the state Supreme Court, seeking permission to execute Kenneth with nitrogen.

“It is a tragedy that Kenneth Smith has avoided the death penalty for nearly 35 years after being convicted of the heinous contract murder of an innocent woman, Elizabeth Sennett,” Marshall said.

This method was approved by state law in 2018 but was never used. In this case, inmates have a month to decide whether they want to die by injection or from nitrogen hypoxia.

In this way, the authorities use this gas through a face mask to deprive the prisoner of oxygen.

The court gave the green light to carry out this execution, which was the first in the United States in which a prisoner died of nitrogen asphyxiation.

The man's lawyers argued that this could be unconstitutional because “cruel and unusual punishment” is banned in the country. Furthermore, they explained that their client could still appeal the court's decision.

“The State is attempting to make Mr. Smith a test subject for the first attempt at execution using a recently published, untested protocol for executing condemned individuals using the novel method of nitrogen hypoxia,” they said.

What did the death record look like?

The rules set by Alabama authorities required the inmate to lie on a stretcher with a mask placed on him.

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So on January 25th, Kenneth Smith enters the William C. Holman Correctional Center.

This is the only prison in Alabama that has an execution chamber. So it will be there where this prisoner will breathe his last breath of his death sentence.

Smith was given nitrogen for about 15 minutes. But before his death sentence was read to him and the gas began to be administered, he had the opportunity to make one final statement.

According to experts, nitrogen makes up 78% of the air humans breathe and is harmless when inhaled with oxygen.

However, inhalation simply deprives the person of oxygen, leading to paralysis of bodily functions and death.

The international community condemns his death

Kenneth Smith was the first prisoner to be executed with nitrogen in Alabama, one of three states along with Oklahoma and Mississippi that approved the method.

All eyes were on Alabama and its new method of execution, the first developed since lethal injection was introduced in 1982.

In fact, this last method has been widely used in the country over the past four decades, replacing the electric chair.

Alabama authorities decided to try nitrogen gas asphyxiation because states that still use the death penalty to acquire lethal drugs have faced difficulties in recent years because pharmaceutical companies have refused to allow the drugs to be used for this purpose.

The United Nations, the European Union and several human rights organizations condemned the use of nitrogen that led to the death of this prisoner, considering it torture and degrading treatment.

Both figures are banned under international law, particularly the Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is a signatory and which it recognizes.

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