NewsFirst nitrogen execution in Alabama sparks outrage after 22-minute death ordeal

First nitrogen execution in Alabama sparks outrage after 22‑minute death ordeal

Just before the execution, many organizations in the USA and around the world expressed opposition to the killing of Kenneth Smith.
Just before the execution, many organizations in the USA and around the world expressed opposition to the killing of Kenneth Smith.
Images source: © East News | Andrew Medichini

1:03 PM EST, January 27, 2024

The first execution in which a convict lost his life due to hypoxia has raised concerns in Washington. Nitrogen, delivered through a special mask, hindered the man's respiratory system.

Back in 1988, Smith committed a crime at the request of Pastor Charles Sennett, when he killed Sennett's wife, Elizabeth, a mother of three children. Smith himself had requested to be executed with nitrogen.

Impatiently waiting for three decades, the court's death penalty decision was finally executed on Thursday. The execution marked another attempt to implement the sentence ordered by the court in Alabama. The state had made a previous attempt in 2022 using the standard procedure of lethal injection. However, the procedure wasn't completed on time because medical personnel couldn't locate an appropriate vein on Smith to administer the poison.

This time, however, everything played out as planned. As per state authorities, it was supposed to be quick and painless. Yet in reality, the process took as long as 22 minutes. Witness accounts from the death chamber of the William C. Holman prison in Atmore, Alabama, including the spiritual leader of the convict, Jeff Hood, were deeply troubling.

According to Hood, Smith writhed in convulsions and suffered for 22 minutes after the exposure to nitrogen through the mask began. As reported in the Friday's edition of "Montgomery Advertiser", it seemed that he was conscious for a significant period during the execution.

White House and EU outraged by the 22-minute-long execution in Alabama

As reported by PAP, in a press conference that followed the execution, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, John Q. Hamm, stated that Smith's reactions were not "anything unusual".

"Deeply disturbing" is how the White House described the execution of Kenneth Smith. At a press conference on Friday afternoon, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre expressed the administration's concern about this pioneering execution method used in Alabama. "The reports about Kenneth Smith's death last night are obviously disturbing, as is the use of nitrogen for this execution," stated Jean-Pierre.

Brussels shared a similar sentiment. The European Union released a statement emphasizing that the community broadly opposes capital punishment under all circumstances. "It is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate denial of human dignity. The death penalty does not deter crime effectively. It's the ultimate penalty, which means that any legal errors that may occur are irreversible."

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