Alabama Carries Out First U.S. Execution by Nitrogen

The state executed Kenneth Smith on Thursday using the untested method of nitrogen hypoxia after the Supreme Court declined to intervene. The Rev. Gary Witte and Alli Sullivan protested outside of the William C. Holman prison in Alabama on Thursday. Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reported from Atmore, Ala., and Abbie VanSickle from Washington. Jan. 25, 2024Updated 9:46 p.m. ET Alabama carried out the first American execution using nitrogen gas on Thursday evening, killing a convicted murderer whose jury had voted to spare his life and opening a new frontier in how states execute death row prisoners. The condemned prisoner, Kenneth Smith, 58, was pronounced dead at 8:25 p.m. Central time, according to Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey. The Supreme Court allowed the execution to move forward over the objections of its three liberal justices and concerns from death penalty opponents who said that the untested method could cause Mr. Smith to suffer. Mr. Smith was one of three men convicted in the 1988 murder of a woman whose husband, a pastor, had recruited them to kill her. The protocol released by prison officials called for strapping Mr. Smith to a gurney in the state’s execution chamber in Atmore, Ala., and pumping nitrogen into a mask on his head, depriving him of oxygen. Mr. Smith’s lawyers have said they believe it to be the first nitrogen execution in the world. It was the second time Alabama had tried to kill Mr. Smith, after a failed lethal injection in November 2022 in which executioners could not find a suitable vein before his death warrant expired. The Supreme Court’s order allowing the execution to go forward did not give an explanation, as is often the case when the justices decide on emergency applications. The court’s three liberal members disagreed with the majority’s decision. In a […]

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