Alabama executes a man with nitrogen gas, the first time the new method has been used

Anti-death penalty activists placed signs along the road heading to Holman Correctional Facility ahead of the scheduled nitrogen gas execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith. (Jan. 25) (AP Video: Stephen Smith/Kim Chandler) ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama executed a convicted murderer with nitrogen gas Thursday, putting him to death with a first-of-its-kind method that once again put the U.S. at the forefront of the debate over capital punishment. The state said the method would be humane, but critics called it cruel and experimental. Officials said Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was pronounced dead at 8:25 p.m. at an Alabama prison after breathing pure nitrogen gas through a face mask to cause oxygen deprivation. It marked the first time that a new execution method has been used in the United States since lethal injection, now the most commonly used method, was introduced in 1982. FILE – This undated photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith, who was convicted in a 1988 murder-for-hire slaying of a preacher’s wife. Alabama will be allowed to put Smith to death with nitrogen gas, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, refusing to block what would be the nation’s first execution by a new method since 1982. Alabama says it plans to replace the 58-year-old’s breathing air with nitrogen gas on Thursday, Jan. 25, rendering him unconscious within seconds and killing him within minutes. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP, File) The execution took about 22 minutes, and Smith appeared to remain conscious for several minutes. For at least two minutes, he appeared to shake and writhe on the gurney, sometimes pulling against the restraints. That was followed by several minutes of heavy breathing, until breathing was no longer perceptible. In a final statement, Smith said: “Tonight Alabama causes […]

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