Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was executed in Alabama using nitrogen gas for murder of Elizabeth Sennett

Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was executed in Alabama using nitrogen gas for murder of Elizabeth Sennett

Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was executed in Alabama using a novel and untested method, marking the first instance of such a procedure in the United States since 1982.

While state officials assured that the execution using nitrogen gas would be swift and painless, witnesses described a horrifying 22-minute ordeal.

Smith, who had been on death row for over 30 years for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett, faced an unusual fate as the state sought to implement an experimental method.

Execution Attempt in 2022:

Previously scheduled for execution in 2022, the attempt was halted at the last minute due to difficulties in connecting an IV line.

Smith’s lethal injection was postponed, leading to renewed efforts by the state to carry out the execution, this time using ‘nitrogen hypoxia’ – a method involving suffocation through gas administered via a mask.

Nitrogen Hypoxia Methodology:

Alabama predicted that nitrogen gas would induce unconsciousness within seconds and cause death within minutes.

However, witnesses at the Holman Correctional Facility reported a far more complicated and protracted process during Smith’s execution.

Witness Accounts of Execution:

The witnesses observed Smith shaking, convulsing, and breathing for an extended period after the initiation of the nitrogen hypoxia process. Contrary to expectations, the execution took approximately 22 minutes, significantly longer than anticipated.

The unsettling scene prompted varied reactions from those present, including Smith’s wife, who cried out for him, and spiritual guide Jeff Hood, who described the execution as the ‘worst thing’ he had ever witnessed.

Detailed Account of the Execution:

The execution commenced at 7.53 pm when the curtain opened, revealing Smith strapped to a gurney with a mask connected to the nitrogen gas source.

Despite an expected swift process, witnesses noted visible struggles, including shaking and convulsions. Smith’s final words, delivered through the gas mask at 7.55 pm, expressed his perspective on the execution.

Unexpected Prolongation and Reactions:

As the ‘nitrogen hypoxia system’ was activated at 7.57 pm, witnesses reported Smith’s continued struggles, lasting for several minutes.

Marty Roney, a witness, documented Smith’s writhing and convulsions between 7.57 pm and 8.01 pm, highlighting the unexpected duration of the ordeal.

The execution reportedly deviated from Alabama officials’ assurances, leading to emotional reactions from those present.

Conclusion and Responses:

The curtain was finally drawn at 8.15 pm, with Smith declared dead at 8.25 pm – about 22 minutes after the administration of the gas began.

While Alabama officials praised the execution as effective and humane, witnesses, including spiritual guide Jeff Hood, characterized it as a ‘horror show.’

The unprecedented use of nitrogen gas raises questions about the constitutionality of execution methods and the potential for prolonged suffering, prompting legal and ethical concerns in the aftermath of Kenneth Eugene Smith’s controversial death.