Alabama Plans First Execution Attempt Using Nitrogen Gas as Method

Alabama is set to carry out the nation’s first execution attempt using nitrogen gas as the method, unless stopped by the courts. Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted of the 1988 murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett, is scheduled to be strapped to a gurney on Thursday and have breathable air replaced with nitrogen using a gas mask. The Alabama attorney general’s office claims that nitrogen hypoxia is the most painless and humane method of execution. However, some doctors and critics argue that the effects of nitrogen gas on the condemned person are unknown, as it has never been done before.

Dr. Jeffrey Keller, president of the American College of Correctional Physicians, stated that the plan aims to eliminate all oxygen from the air Smith is breathing, causing his death. The state of Alabama predicts that the nitrogen gas will induce unconsciousness within seconds and cause death within minutes. The execution protocol involves placing a full facepiece supplied air respirator over Smith’s face and administering nitrogen for at least 15 minutes or until a flatline indication on the EKG is observed.

Nitrogen hypoxia has been authorized as an execution method in three states: Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The use of this method comes as some states explore alternatives to lethal injection due to difficulties in obtaining the necessary drugs. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association has deemed nitrogen hypoxia distressing for most mammals, and experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council have cautioned that it could violate the prohibition on torture.

Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who filed a U.N. complaint against the execution method, expressed concerns about potential risks, including seizures and choking on vomit. He also highlighted the possibility of leaks under the mask, which could prolong the execution or cause injury. Previous incidents involving nitrogen asphyxiation, such as industrial accidents and suicide attempts, have resulted in fatalities.

Smith’s conviction for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett was overturned, but he was convicted again in 1996. The jury recommended a life sentence, but a judge sentenced him to death. Smith survived a prior execution attempt in 2022 when it was called off due to difficulties in connecting the required intravenous lines. His attorneys are currently seeking to block the nitrogen execution, arguing that it is unconstitutional and violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Protests against the execution are planned, with faith leaders delivering a petition to Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, urging her to halt the process. However, Ivey has stated that the state is ready to proceed, citing the passage of the nitrogen execution method in 2018.


Author: CrimeDoor

1 Response

  1. While the use of nitrogen gas as a method of execution may seem like a step forward in terms of finding a more humane alternative to lethal injection, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks and ethical concerns associated with this method.

    Firstly, there is a lack of scientific research and data on the effects of nitrogen gas as a means of execution. While proponents argue that it is painless and quick, there is no concrete evidence to support these claims. Without proper research and testing, it is irresponsible to

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