Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, to be the first person executed via nitrogen gas in Alabama.
Previously sentenced to death for alleged involvement in the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Sennett.
Initial attempt for lethal injection failed due to difficulties in inserting an intravenous line.
Concerns and Criticism
Medical and legal experts express concerns about the untested nature of nitrogen gas as an execution method.
No evidence supporting the claim that nitrogen gas is more humane or painless than lethal injection.
Lack of a clear statement ensuring the method’s cruelty-free nature raises doubts.
Alabama’s Approval and Defense
Three states, including Alabama, approve nitrogen gas as a form of execution.
Governor Kay Ivey defends the method, emphasizing it was the inmate’s alternative choice to lethal injection.
Confidence expressed in the readiness to implement nitrogen gas as per the 2018 law.
Understanding Nitrogen Hypoxia
Alabama’s protocol involves strapping the inmate to a gurney, fitting them with a mask and a breathing tube.
100% pure nitrogen administered through the mask to deprive the person of oxygen until death.
Nitrogen, constituting 78% of the air, can be harmful when the concentration of oxygen becomes too low.
Issues with Lethal Injection
Lethal injection, the most common method, faces challenges such as difficulty finding veins, drug shortages, and botched executions.
Instances of pulmonary edema discovered in autopsy reports, challenging the belief in a peaceful death.
Shortages of drugs used in lethal injection lead to experimental use of different, less-tested drugs.
Controversies Surrounding Nitrogen Gas
Officials claim nitrogen gas is a humane and painless form of execution, causing unconsciousness before death.
Alabama’s published protocol is heavily redacted, raising concerns about transparency.
Smith’s court arguments include potential complications like ill-fitting masks and the risk of suffering short of death.
Ethical Concerns and Court Rulings
Doctors are ethically prohibited from participating in executions, raising questions about the procedure’s executioner.
A court rules in favor of proceeding with the execution, dismissing claims of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Supreme Court declines Smith’s last-minute request to halt the execution.
International Opposition and Calls for Stay
Numerous organizations, including the U.N. Human Rights Office, call on Alabama to stay the execution.
Concerns raised about classifying execution via nitrogen gas as torture, potentially violating international human rights treaties.
The lack of clarity and transparency in the execution process draws attention and criticism.