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Alabama Plans To Use Nitrogen Gas To Execute Inmate On Death Row

Alabama resident Kenneth Smith was convicted of capital murder in 1996. Smith was hired by local minister, Charles Sennett, to murder his wife Elizabeth, whom he’d been cheating on. Sennett hired two men total, one being Kenneth Smith, and agreed to pay them each $1,000 to murder Elizabeth and stage the scene to look like a burglary. After the assassination was carried out, Charles Sennett took his own life, and Smith was arrested for his role in the murder. 


During Smith’s trial, he was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. However, certain circumstances overturned the verdict, and a retrial was ordered. Following the second trial, jurors voted 11-1 for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The judge felt differently and overturned the jury’s decision. Ultimately, Kenneth Smith was sentenced to death.  


Kenneth Smith was to be executed by lethal injection in November 2022. However, Smith’s death warrant had expired before the execution team could connect two intravenous lines. Reports stated that Smith had remained strapped to the table for approximately four hours while the execution team attempted to insert needles into his veins. After this incident, Kenneth Smith’s lawyers had requested that he be executed using nitrogen hypoxia, rather than lethal injection. 


Since the state has agreed to this method of execution, it will be the first time in any U.S. state that nitrogen gas has been used to put an inmate to death. This method does prove to be dangerous for the people surrounding Kenneth during his execution, especially his Spiritual Advisor, Dr. Jeff Hood. During this execution, a mask is to be placed on Smith, while the air inside is slowly replaced with nitrogen until he eventually suffocates. Since nitrogen is a colorless and odorless gas, it is possible that some could escape from the mask during the procedure, possibly placing Dr. Jeff Hood in danger. Although his injury is unlikely, he is still required to sign a waiver stating that he will remain at least three feet away from the mask and that he acknowledges any risks he might encounter with this operation. 


Kenneth Smith, 58, is scheduled to die as a result of nitrogen hypoxia sometime between January 25, 2024 and January 26, 2024


Edited by: Vicky Muzio

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Tags: #Inmate #DeathRow #NitrogenHypoxia


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