News58-year-old murderer to face first-ever execution by nitrogen suffocation in Alabama

58‑year-old murderer to face first-ever execution by nitrogen suffocation in Alabama

Kenneth Smith, convicted for a brutal murder, will undergo another execution.
Kenneth Smith, convicted for a brutal murder, will undergo another execution.
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4:34 AM EST, January 22, 2024

Kenneth Smith is scheduled to be executed on January 25, 2024, in Alabama. Convicted of murder, he has spent 36 years in prison for the killing of Elizabeth Sennett.

Smith murdered Elizabeth Sennett in 1988 on commission from Pastor Charles Sennett. The pastor was in debt and hoped to claim insurance money. Once the plot was exposed, he took his own life.

The Supreme Court of Alabama has authorized the nation's first execution by nitrogen suffocation. The governor scheduled the execution for January 25, 2024.

An earlier attempt to execute Smith on November 17, 2022, was unsuccessful due to the executioners' inability to insert the needle into a vein properly.

Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma are currently the only U.S. states to permit nitrogen suffocation as an execution method, only in theory. To date, it has not been put into practice.

The new method involves having the condemned person inhale exclusively nitrogen, which substitutes for oxygen, resulting in death. Previously used in industrial poultry slaughter, the technique entails exhausting oxygen from the air and replacing it with nitrogen. According to the attorney general's office during a December hearing, this method will cause "a loss of consciousness within seconds, and death within minutes".

Kenneth Smith: sentenced for a horrific crime

Today, 58-year-old Kenneth Smith received a death sentence for an atrocious crime. In spring 1988, Smith and John Forrester Parker, who was sentenced to death and executed in 2010, received $1,000 from Pastor Charles Sennett. Sennett, in dire financial straits, commissioned the pair to murder his wife, hoping to cash in on her insurance policy.

Elizabeth Sennett was found dead in her Colbert County home on March 18, 1988. The autopsy revealed that she had been stabbed eight times in the chest and once on each side of her neck. The pastor committed suicide a week later. After several trials and sentence reviews, Smith was ultimately sentenced to death by an Alabama court.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed strong opposition when Smith's execution was approved last week. The Commissioner classified "nitrogen suffocation" as torture and deemed it inhumane.

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