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On November 1, the Alabama Supreme Court unprecedentedly approved Alabama’s request to use nitrogen hypoxia method for an execution.
Although it has been legal since 2018, the method has never been implemented on an inmate.
The all-Republican court approved it in a 6-2 decision
Alabama wanted to use nitrogen gas on Kenneth Eugene Smith, a prisoner who has been on death row since 1996.
In 1996, Smith was sentenced to capital punishment. He admitted to the murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett, a pastor’s wife who was beaten and stabbed in 1998.
The gruesome murder of Sennett was orchestrated by her husband, Charles Sennett. Smith stabbed Sennett eight times in the chest and once on each side of her neck.
Smith was one of two men hired by Charles to kill Sennett and was paid $1,000 for his role in her death.
The other man convicted was executed in 2010.
Charles planned his wife’s murder over a life insurance scam, as he was deeply in debt and needed money. However, before officials could arrest Charles, he had taken his own life.
Over three decades awaiting death row, prison nurses attempted to execute Smith through lethal injection but were unsuccessful.
They struggled to locate a vein and kept Smith on a gurney for many hours.
After failing to find a vein, Smith’s attorney was hopeful that he would no longer be on death row.
The Alabama Department of Corrections called off Smith’s capital punishment. However, when the state got permission to use nitrogen hypoxia, his attorneys accused them of attempting to move him to “the front of the line”.
Use of nitrogen hypoxia will be ‘first ever’
Smith’s attorney wanted the court to reject the request for execution, stating, “The state seeks to make Mr. Smith the test subject for the first ever attempted execution by an untested and only recently released protocol for executing condemned people by the novel method of nitrogen hypoxia.”
After the approved ruling, Sennett’s family finally received justice, as they had “waited an unconscionable 35 years to see justice served. Today, the Alabama Supreme Court cleared the way for Kenneth Eugene Smith to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia,” stated Alabama’s attorney general, Steve Marshall.
Marshall continued with, “Though the wait has been far too long, I am grateful that our capital litigators have nearly gotten this case to the finish line.”