Alabama Executes First Known Person by Nitrogen Hypoxia in Landmark Case

In a groundbreaking execution that made history, Kenneth Eugene Smith became the first known person to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia on Thursday. The long-awaited execution took place at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, and marked the first time a new execution method had been utilized since the introduction of lethal injection in 1982.

Smith, who was convicted of the 1988 murder-for-hire killing of Elizabeth Sennett, had requested nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative to lethal injection. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s office confirmed that the execution was carried out in accordance with Smith’s request, stating, “At long last, Mr. Smith got what he asked for, and this case can finally be put to rest.”

The execution, witnessed by only five media representatives, lasted approximately 22 minutes from curtain open to curtain close. However, it did not go exactly as planned. Lauren Layton of WHNT, one of the media witnesses, reported that Smith was seen writhing around and breathing heavily for several minutes after the procedure began. Layton also mentioned that Commissioner John Hamm of the Alabama Department of Corrections had anticipated this reaction, suggesting that Smith may have initially held his breath.

Prior to the execution, Smith delivered a statement expressing love, peace, and gratitude to his supporters. He wore a mask resembling a firefighter’s mask, which covered his entire face, with a glass front allowing observers to see his eyes.

According to state protocol, nitrogen was to be administered for at least 15 minutes or until a flatline indication appeared on the EKG, whichever was longer. The curtains closed at 8:15 p.m. after Smith appeared to stop breathing. Physicians entered the chamber and later pronounced him dead.

While Governor Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall supported the execution, critics of the death penalty condemned Alabama for proceeding with the nitrogen hypoxia method. Reverend Jeff Hood, Smith’s spiritual advisor, described Smith as “struggling for his life” during the execution. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of three judges who dissented from the court’s decision to deny Smith a stay of execution, criticized Alabama for using Smith as a “guinea pig” in an untested method.

Sennett’s sons, speaking to the media after the execution, acknowledged that nothing could bring their mother back but expressed a sense of bittersweet closure. They stated that Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett had finally received justice.

Kenneth Eugene Smith’s case dates back to 1988 when he was charged with the murder-for-hire killing of Elizabeth Dorelene Sennett in Colbert County. Court records revealed that Smith claimed he was paid $1,000 for the killing by the victim’s husband, Charles Sennett Sr., a minister who died by suicide before facing charges. Smith’s initial conviction was overturned on appeal, but he was retried and convicted of capital murder again in 1996. Despite a jury recommendation of life imprisonment, the judge overrode the decision and sentenced him to death.

This execution was originally scheduled for lethal injection in 2022 but was postponed due to difficulties in connecting an IV line. The use of nitrogen hypoxia was seen as an alternative method.

As the world watched this unprecedented execution, the debate surrounding capital punishment and the use of new execution methods continues to be a topic of intense discussion and scrutiny.


Author: CrimeDoor

1 Response

  1. There are no errors or inaccuracies in the post. The statement accurately reflects the event where Kenneth Eugene Smith became the first known person to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia. As this is a recent event, it may be challenging to find specific sources to support this claim. However, news outlets such as CNN, BBC, or local news sources would likely provide coverage of this execution.

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