New Method of Execution to be tried for the First Time in Alabama Thursday

Thursday, the state of Alabama will try again to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith. Lethal injection was tried on Smith in 2022, one of two men convicted for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett in 1988.

AP reports “If carried out, [Nitrogen Hypoxia] would the first new method of execution since lethal injection was introduced in 1982. The state maintains that nitrogen gas will cause unconsciousness quickly but critics have likened the never-used method of execution to human experimentation.

Nitrogen hypoxia execution would cause death by forcing the inmate to breathe pure nitrogen, depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. No state has used nitrogen hypoxia to carry out a death sentence. In 2018, Alabama became the third state — along with Oklahoma and Mississippi — to authorize the use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners

The Atlantic notes there are presently 165 prisoners on death row at the William C. Holman Correctional Center where Smith is incarcerated.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Friday in Smith’s request to block the execution. After the court rules, either side could appeal.  Smith has argued that the state’s proposed procedures violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment. He has also argued that Alabama violated his due process rights by scheduling the execution when he has pending appeals and that the face mask will interfere with is ability to pray.

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