October 1, 2023

Nationwide Information

Nitrogen hypoxia is attributable to forcing the inmate to breathe solely nitrogen, depriving them of oxygen and inflicting them to die.

Alabama Legal professional Common Steve Marshall speaks with members of the media outdoors the Supreme Courtroom on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. AP Photograph/Patrick Semansky, File

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is looking for to grow to be the primary state to execute a prisoner by making him breathe pure nitrogen.

The Alabama lawyer basic’s workplace on Friday requested the state Supreme Courtroom to set an execution date for loss of life row inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58. The court docket submitting indicated Alabama plans to place him to loss of life by nitrogen hypoxia, an execution methodology that’s licensed in three states however has by no means been used.

Nitrogen hypoxia is attributable to forcing the inmate to breathe solely nitrogen, depriving them of oxygen and inflicting them to die. Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air inhaled by people and is innocent when inhaled with oxygen. Whereas proponents of the brand new methodology have theorized it could be painless, opponents have likened it to human experimentation.

Alabama licensed nitrogen hypoxia in 2018 amid a scarcity of medicine used to hold out deadly injections, however the state has not tried to make use of it till now to hold out a loss of life sentence. Oklahoma and Mississippi have additionally licensed nitrogen hypoxia, however haven’t used it.

The disclosure that Alabama is able to use nitrogen hypoxia is predicted to set off a brand new spherical of authorized battles over the constitutionality of the strategy.

The Equal Justice Initiative, a authorized advocacy group that has labored on loss of life penalty points, mentioned Alabama has a historical past of “failed and flawed executions and execution makes an attempt” and “experimenting with a by no means earlier than used methodology is a horrible thought.”

“No state within the nation has executed an individual utilizing nitrogen hypoxia and Alabama is in no place to experiment with a very unproven and unused methodology for executing somebody,” Angie Setzer, a senior lawyer with the Equal Justice Initiative mentioned.

Alabama tried to execute Smith by deadly injection final 12 months, however known as off the execution due to issues inserting an IV into his veins. It was the state’s second such occasion inside two months of being unable to place an inmate to loss of life and its third since 2018. The day after Smith’s aborted execution, Gov. Kay Ivey introduced a pause on executions to conduct an inner assessment of deadly injection procedures. The state resumed deadly injections final month.

Smith was one in all two males convicted within the 1988 murder-for-hire slaying of a preacher’s spouse. The Alabama lawyer basic argued it’s time to perform the loss of life sentence.

“It’s a travesty that Kenneth Smith has been in a position to keep away from his loss of life sentence for practically 35 years after being convicted of the heinous murder-for-hire slaying of an harmless lady, Elizabeth Sennett,” Legal professional Common Steve Marshall mentioned Friday in a press release.

Alabama has been working for a number of years to develop the nitrogen hypoxia execution methodology, however has disclosed little about its plans. The lawyer basic’s court docket submitting didn’t describe the small print of the how the execution can be carried out. Corrections Commissioner John Hamm instructed reporters final month {that a} protocol was practically full.

Various Alabama inmates looking for to dam their executions by deadly injection, together with Smith, have argued they need to be allowed to die by nitrogen hypoxia.

Robert Grass, an lawyer representing Smith, declined to remark Friday.

Sennett was discovered lifeless on March 18, 1988, within the residence she shared along with her husband on Coon Canine Cemetery Highway in Alabama’s Colbert County. Prosecutors mentioned Smith was one in all two males who had been every paid $1,000 to kill Sennett on behalf of her husband, who was deeply in debt and wished to gather on insurance coverage.

The slaying, and the revelations over who was behind it, rocked the small north Alabama group. The opposite man convicted within the killing was executed in 2010. Charles Sennett, the sufferer’s husband and a Church of Christ pastor, killed himself when the investigation started to concentrate on him as a attainable suspect, in line with court docket paperwork.