A federal judge in United States of America Yesterday, Wednesday, the state of Alabama executed a prisoner accused in a murder case with nitrogen gas, in a precedent that is the first of its kind in America.
On January 10, District Judge for the Central District of Alabama, Robert Hoffaker, rejected the appeal of prisoner Kenneth Smith (58 years old) against the state of Alabama’s use of nitrogen gas to execute him.
Nitrogen hypoxia occurs by forcing the prisoner to breathe only nitrogen, depriving him of oxygen, which leads to his death. Nitrogen constitutes 78% of the air that humans inhale and is harmless when inhaled with oxygen.
Oxygen deprivation “will cause loss of consciousness within seconds, and cause death within minutes,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office said in court filings.
“Smith has avoided the statutory death penalty for more than 35 years, but today’s court’s dismissal of Smith’s speculative claims removes an obstacle to justice finally being served,” Marshall added in a statement.
Last week, four United Nations experts expressed concern about Smith's upcoming execution, warning that the state's intention to kill him in this untested method could expose him to cruel and inhuman treatment that amounts to torture.
In their joint statement issued on January 3, the four independent UN observers called on the US government and Alabama to halt implementation of the ruling. Execution. “We are concerned that nitrogen hypoxia could lead to a painful and humiliating death,” the experts wrote.
Smith's defense has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama, arguing that there are significant risks to the proposed method, which include that the mask seal on his face may be broken, allowing oxygen to enter and spoiling the execution, and such a scenario could cause a stroke or leave Smith… In a permanent coma.
Smith's lawyers plan to appeal the ruling, which is scheduled to be implemented on January 25 supreme court In the United States, they confirmed that the state is trying to make him a “test subject” for an untried method of execution.
Smith's lawyers also argue that a gas mask, which will be fitted over his nose and mouth, will hinder Smith's ability to pray out loud or make a final statement to witnesses in his final moments.
If the appeal is rejected, Smith will become the first person to be executed using nitrogen gas in America.
In 1996, a jury recommended a life sentence by a vote of 11 to one, but the judge overrode her recommendation and sentenced him to death after the Alabama charge of “murder for hire” was found.
Smith was one of two men convicted of murdering a preacher's wife for hire in 1988. Prosecutors said Smith and the other man were paid $1,000 each to kill Elizabeth Sennett, 45, on behalf of her husband, who was in debt and wanted to collect insurance.
John Forrest Parker, the other man convicted of murder, was executed in 2010.
The state had begun an internal review of its execution procedures, before announcing again the resumption of executions by lethal injection in June 2022.
On November 17, 2022, the state attempted to execute Smith using lethal injection, but abandoned the attempt after four hours after staff failed to access an IV.
In an attempt to stall the execution, Smith argued that lethal injection constituted cruel and unusual punishment and suggested that gassing—death by inhalation of pure nitrogen—be done instead.
On May 15, 2023, the US Supreme Court sided with him, meaning that Smith would become the first person to be executed by gas, and Smith also became perhaps the first person to succeed in his method of execution by resorting to a judicial ruling.
Alabama seeks nation’s 1st execution by nitrogen hypoxia https://t.co/vSLAwjvsov
— ABC22 & FOX44 (@WVNYWFFF) August 26, 2023
The state of Alabama built a gas chamber in 2021 after lawmakers suggested that death by gas would be more humane than lethal injection.
Following the European ban that prevents pharmaceutical companies from selling drugs for use in executions, America faces difficulty obtaining barbiturates (drugs that depress the nervous system) used in lethal injection execution protocols.
To confront this dilemma, some American states sought to revive old methods of implementing death sentences, including nitrogen gas, which was adopted by American states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
And gas Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a toxic and harmful gas, an air pollutant, and a type of nitrogen oxides. It can lead to eye and respiratory irritation.
Nitrogen dioxide gas came to light at the beginning of 2018 after media outlets revealed that research was conducted, funded by Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW, in which healthy people were exposed to it.
All types of nitrogen oxide gas – which also includes NO and N2O – are considered toxic and harmful. This gas can lead to eye and respiratory irritation, while long-term exposure to it leads to cardiovascular disease.
Methods of carrying out the death penalty varied throughout the ages, including burning, sawing, or skinning the convict alive. Sometimes the convict’s limbs were tied to four horses and each one of them ran in a direction to split the convict’s body. This method was prevalent in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Execution methods now vary between hanging, shooting, electrocution, lethal injection, poison gas chamber, execution by stoning, and beheading with a sword.