Alabama uses new execution method for prisoner on death row

Alabama is making headlines after executing a death row prisoner through a new and untested method involving nitrogen gas Thursday evening.

Prisoner Kenneth Smith died at 8:25 p.m. CST after officials used a gas mask to administer the nitrogen that flowed for 15 minutes.

Smith was convicted of murder-for-hire in 1988 where he was put on death row. Smith underwent an execution attempt in late 2022 but was called off after four hours when officials could not properly insert the needle into his body.

The Alabama attorney general’s office explains that nitrogen hypoxia is “the most painless and humane method of execution known to man.” Though professionals who have worked with nitrogen gas highly disagree. Smith was told by non-supporters of the practice that he would likely suffer.

Journalists who were present at the time of the execution explained that this was not humane or painless in the slightest. Smith remained conscious for several minutes after the nitrogen gas had started flowing, and it was easy to see just how uncomfortable he was. Smith began shaking and writhing on the gurney before he went unconscious. Then, you see heavy breathing for some time before his breath slows down to a stop.

“What we saw was minutes of someone struggling for their life,” Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm explained in a press conference. “We were visibly surprised at how bad this thing went.”

Lethal injection by nitrogen gas is the first new execution method that has been put into practice after legalizing lethal injections in the U.S. four decades ago.

“Tonight, Alabama caused humanity to take a step backward,” Smith stated just before the nitrogen was turned on. “I’m leaving with love, peace and light.”

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