A historic move took place in Alabama (The U.S. State), where Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was given a death penalty with nitrogen gas using a novel method, causing a stir in the capital punishment discourse. The state, advocating it as humane, faced criticism as critics condemned it as cruel and experimental.
Smith’s death was declared at 8:25 p.m., following a 22-minute process involving pure nitrogen gas through a face mask. The execution marked the first use of a new method since the introduction of lethal injection in 1982. Smith’s visible struggles during the procedure ignited concerns over its effectiveness and potential cruelty. In his final words, Smith remarked, “Tonight Alabama causes humanity to take a step backward. … I’m leaving with love, peace, and light,” making the “I love you sign” towards family witnesses.
Governor Kay Ivey justified the execution as justice for the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Sennett. The attempt to execute Smith in 2022 was halted due to issues connecting an IV line. A last-minute legal battle ensued, with Smith’s attorneys arguing against being a test subject for an experimental method. Federal courts rejected Smith’s plea, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority justices remained silent.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in dissent, criticised Alabama for making Smith a “guinea pig” for an untested method, raising broader ethical questions. The use of nitrogen gas, causing rapid unconsciousness and death as claimed by the state, is now under scrutiny given Smith’s apparent struggles. The controversy deepens the ongoing debate surrounding capital punishment in the United States.