Alabama gasses prisoner with nitrogen in first new execution method in decades
ATMORE: (Reuters) Alabama executed convicted murderer Kenneth Smith, who held his breath in vain as officials asphyxiated him with nitrogen gas, the first use of a new method of capital punishment since lethal injections began in the U.S. four decades ago.
Smith, convicted of a 1988 murder-for-hire, was a rare prisoner who had already survived one execution attempt. In November 2022, Alabama officials aborted his execution by lethal injection after struggling for hours to insert an intravenous line’s needle in his body.
The state has called its new closely watched protocol “the most painless and humane method of execution known to man.” It predicted Smith would lose consciousness in under a minute and die soon after, although witnesses on Thursday said it appeared to take several minutes longer.
Alabama has touted asphyxiation as a simpler alternative for prison systems that struggle to find either veins or the required drugs for lethal injections.
Human rights groups, United Nations torture experts, and lawyers for Smith had sought to prevent it, saying the method was risky, experimental and could lead to an agonizing death or non-fatal injury.