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Supreme Court Sides with Alabama Inmate who Seeks to Die by Nitrogen Gas

On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with a death row inmate in Alabama – whose scheduled execution by lethal injection was called off at the last minute by the state.

The court’s action comes after the justices divided 6-3 earlier in the term to allow Kenneth Smith’s execution to go forward by lethal injection. The execution was abruptly canceled later in the evening after the state was unable to properly set the IV line before the warrant for execution expired.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, the inmate, later claimed the execution was botched, and argued the state should not try to execute him again by lethal injection, but should instead use nitrogen gas. 

He won his case at the lower court level, and as a result, Alabama asked the high court to intervene. 

They argued that a lower court violated Supreme Court precedents that require an inmate to demonstrate that a proposed alternative method is not just “feasible” but able to be “readily implemented.”

The Supreme Court declined.  

The case comes after the state paused executions last fall and conducted a review of its execution process after problems with multiple lethal injections came into the national spotlight. In late February, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey called for the state’s executions to resume after the review was completed.

Kenneth Smith was convicted for the 1988 murder, with an accomplice, of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett in a murder-for-hire plot. Smith and his accomplice were hired by Sennett’s husband, who was involved in an affair and had taken out a large insurance policy on his wife.


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