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Alabama executes prisoner using nitrogen gas, marking the first use of this new method in decades.

Alabama executed Kenneth Smith, a convicted murderer, using nitrogen gas, marking a departure from the more commonly used lethal injection method. Smith, initially sentenced in 1988 for a murder-for-hire case, had previously survived a halted execution attempt in November 2022 due to difficulties with intravenous lines. The state’s new protocol, touted as the “most painless and humane,” involves nitrogen gas asphyxiation, aiming for quick unconsciousness.

Despite opposition from human rights groups and Smith’s legal team, the execution proceeded after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal. Witnesses observed Smith remaining conscious for several minutes after the nitrogen gas was activated, contrary to the state’s predictions of a rapid loss of consciousness.

Kenneth Smith, convicted of killing Elizabeth Sennett in a 1988 murder-for-hire plot, had previously accepted payment for the crime. Despite a jury’s recommendation for a life sentence, an Alabama judge sentenced him to death. The execution occurred over 30 years after the crime, and Smith’s surviving family members attended, expressing forgiveness toward Sennett’s killers. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey stated that Smith had faced consequences for his “horrendous crimes” after multiple attempts to delay the execution.

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