Alabama Supreme Court Gives Green Light for Controversial Execution Method

Alabama Supreme Court Gives Green Light for Controversial Execution Method

( – In November 2022, the Alabama Department of Corrections attempted to execute convicted murderer Kenneth Eugene Smith by lethal injection. According to CBS News, staff members tried to insert two intravenous lines into the criminal as required but were ultimately unsuccessful. They then tried to insert a central line but failed there as well. Ultimately, they had to temporarily call off the execution. Now, Smith’s reprieve is almost over, as the state now has a newly approved method of execution.

The Decision and Method

On November 2, the news source reported that the state’s high court approved execution by nitrogen gas in Alabama, making it the third state to approve the method behind Oklahoma and Mississippi. The court ruled 6 to 2 in favor of granting the attorney general permission to execute Smith using the new method. He will likely be the first one put to death in the new way, which some people likened to human experimentation because the success of the procedure is unproven. However, it’s unclear when the execution will take place. It has been 35 years since Smith committed murder, so the victim’s family has been waiting a long time for justice.

The nitrogen hypoxia execution method works like this: an inmate is forced to breathe pure nitrogen instead of oxygen, causing that person to suffocate and die. Nitrogen naturally exists in the air we breathe, accounting for 78% of the inhaled gas that keeps humans alive. Oxygen makes up 21%, and the rest of the air consists of other gases like carbon dioxide, neon, helium, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. The reason nitrogen is tolerable to humans is because of the oxygen mixture. Without it, people cannot survive, making this new method presumably effective.

The Crime and Family

In 1988, Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett’s pastor husband, Charles Sennett Sr., paid Smith and another man to kill his wife for the insurance money. Apparently, he had bills to pay and needed the cash. Sennett was found murdered in her home. After police began to suspect Mr. Sennett for the crime, he killed himself, making the crime even more senseless. Smith and John Forrest Parker were both convicted of the woman’s murder and sentenced to death. Parker was executed in 2010.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Ms. Sennett’s family has waited long enough for justice and he was glad the case was finally almost over. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey will determine the new date of Smith’s execution by nitrogen hypoxia.

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