US State of Alabama Becomes 1st to Execute Prisoner with Nitrogen Gas
The US State of Alabama on Thursday executed convicted prisoner, Kenneth Smith with nitrogen gas.
Alabama thus becomes the first state in the US to use what some experts say may become the new way of executions across the US prisons.
Smith was convicted of the murder of a woman in 1988 and has since been on death row.
In 2022, the convicted murderer was to be executed through lethal injection but the process failed when the executioners were unable to properly locate his veins for the injections until the death warrant expired.
According to reports, the nitrogen gas execution is “humane” and “painless” as it asphyxiated Smith within few minutes. Although the correctional spokesperson had earlier stated that the execution was going to take few seconds, but Reuters the media witnesses said “It appeared that Smith was holding his breath as long as he could.”
However, Alabama Corrections Commissioner, John Hamm told a press conference that “He struggled against the restraints a little bit but it’s an involuntary movement and some agonal breathing. So that was all expected.”
In his own reaction, Rev. Jeff Hood, Smith’s spiritual adviser who witnessed the whole process as he was at Smith’s side for the execution, said that prison officials in the room “were visibly surprised at how bad this thing went.”
“What we saw was minutes of someone struggling for their life.”
In his final statement before he was executed, Smith whose family including his wife witnessed his last day was quoted to have said:
“Tonight, Alabama caused humanity to take a step backward.”
“I’m leaving with love, peace and light, Love all of you.”
Smith had set up an elaborate battle to delay his execution including approaching the US Supreme Court, but all the legal battles failed to save him.
Smith was convicted of killing a pastor’s wife for a fee. The victim’s husband had hired Smith and his accomplices for a fee of $1,000 in 1988 for the dirty job.
Recounting the events that led to the day, Alabama’s Republican Governor, Kay Ivey, said:
“On March 18, 1988, 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett’s life was brutally taken from her by Kenneth Eugene Smith.”
“After more than 30 years and attempt after attempt to game the system, Mr. Smith has answered for his horrendous crimes.”
Late Mrs. Sennett’s son, Mike Sennett who was among the witnesses told journalists , “Nothing that happened here today is going to bring mom back.”
“It’s a bittersweet day, we’re not going to be jumping around, hooping and hollering, hooraying and all that, that’s not us. We’re glad this day is over.”