Alabama is looking to make history as it considers using a new and controversial method for executing a death row inmate. Kenneth Eugene Smith, aged 58, was found guilty of his involvement in a murder-for-hire case back in 1988. The case revolved around the tragic killing of Elizabeth Sennett, the wife of a preacher.
Smith, along with another individual, was paid to carry out the murder on behalf of the victim's husband. The motive behind this grim act was the husband's financial troubles and his desire to claim the life insurance money.
Interestingly, while one of the men implicated in the crime, John Forrest Parker, was executed for his role in 2010, Smith has yet to face his sentence and remains on death row.
Smith's earlier attempt at execution through lethal injection had to be abandoned due to the difficulties encountered by death row staff in inserting an IV into his veins.
Now, a new chapter unfolds as Smith is set to become the first prisoner to undergo execution through nitrogen hypoxia.
This method involves making someone breathe only nitrogen, causing them to lose consciousness and eventually pass away, at least theoretically.
Nitrogen is a major component of the air we breathe, comprising 78 percent, but it's harmless when mixed with oxygen.
Although the use of nitrogen hypoxia for executions is permitted in three states, it has remained unused until now.
This method was introduced due to a shortage of the drugs needed for lethal injections.
Kenneth Eugene was among the pair of men found guilty in the murder-for-hire case involving Elizabeth Sennett.
While Alabama authorized the use of this execution method in 2018, it hasn't been employed for carrying out death sentences in the state.
This approach stirs up significant controversy. While some contend that it's painless, others draw parallels to human experimentation.
Interestingly, it's been reported that Smith would opt for nitrogen-induced death over lethal injection, as per CBS News.
The Equal Injustice Initiative, a legal advocacy group focusing on death penalty matters, has expressed concerns about Alabama's history of botched executions and their opposition to experimenting with an untested method.
Echoing Concerns: Expert's View on Controversial Execution Method
Joel Zivot, an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Emory University School of Medicine, raises his own reservations, as reported by The Mirror.
He points out that, despite the US Constitution's ban on cruel punishment, he hasn't come across any discussions about how this novel method would 'lack cruelty'.
Moreover, Zivot cautions that the use of nitrogen gas could pose risks to those witnessing or aiding in the execution due to its lack of color and odor.