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Alabama carries out US' first execution using nitrogen gas

Jan 26, 2024 09:37 AM IST

Alabama Nitrogen gas execution: The controversial method has been likened by the UN to “torture.”

US' Alabama carried out the country's first execution using nitrogen gas as Kenneth Eugene Smith who was sentenced to death in 1996 for a 1988 murder, was pronounced dead. The controversial method has been likened by the UN to “torture" however Alabama said that the process would be humane.

Alabama Nitrogen gas execution: The gate at Holman Correctional Facility is monitored by law enforcement before the scheduled execution by asphyxiation using pure nitrogen of Kenneth Smith.(Reuters)
Alabama Nitrogen gas execution: The gate at Holman Correctional Facility is monitored by law enforcement before the scheduled execution by asphyxiation using pure nitrogen of Kenneth Smith.(Reuters)

The 58-year-old was executed using breathing pure nitrogen gas through a face mask which causes oxygen deprivation. Lethal injection- introduced in 1982- is now the most commonly used method for execution in the US. Alabama had earlier tried to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith but the lethal injection was called off at the last minute because authorities couldn't connect an IV line, it was reported.

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Ahead of the execution, a last-minute legal battle was witnessed in which Kenneth Eugene Smith's lawyers argued that Alabama was making him the test subject for an experimental execution method which may violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Earlier federal courts rejected Kenneth Eugene Smith's bid after which US Supreme Court gave the last ruling.

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US Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the judgement, “Having failed to kill Smith on its first attempt, Alabama has selected him as its guinea pig' to test a method of execution never attempted before. The world is watching.”

“Twice now this Court has ignored Smith's warning that Alabama will subject him to an unconstitutional risk of pain. I sincerely hope that he is not proven correct a second time," Sonia Sotomayor noted while Kenneth Eugene Smith's lawyers said, “There is little research regarding death by nitrogen hypoxia. When the State is considering using a novel form of execution that has never been attempted anywhere, the public has an interest in ensuring the State has researched the method adequately and established procedures to minimise the pain and suffering of the condemned person."

Prior to Kenneth Eugene Smith's death, his spiritual adviser Reverend Jeff Hood said, “The eyes of the world are on this impending moral apocalypse. Our prayer is that people will not turn their heads. We simply cannot normalise the suffocation of each other.”

In his final hours, Kenneth Eugene Smith met with family members and his spiritual adviser, a prison spokesperson told Associated Press.

He ate a last meal of T-bone steak, hash browns, toast and eggs slathered in steak sauce. The spokesperson added, “He's terrified at the torture that could come. But he's also at peace. One of the things he told me is he is finally getting out."

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