Alabama has scheduled the nation’s first-ever execution by nitrogen gas.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the order on November 8th, 2023, to have Kenneth Smith executed using the deadly gas. Smith received the death penalty in 1996 after being convicted of brutally beating and stabbing Elizabeth Sennett, a pastor’s wife, in a murder-for-hire plot in 1988.
Charles Sennett Sr. hired Smith to kill the woman for life insurance money. Another man, John Forrest Parker, also assisted in the killing. He was executed in 2010. Charles killed himself a week after his wife’s murder.
In November 2022, Smith was supposed to be executed via lethal injection. However, after being strapped to his death bed for hours, officials were unable to find a vein, ultimately leading to him being transported back to his cell. With the nitrogen gas, the odorless, colorless gas will likely be administered through a mask strapped to Smith’s face and nostrils.
His lawyers have argued that since the first execution was botched, Smith’s sentence should be converted to a life sentence. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the execution would push forward, this time with the gas. Smith and his team are incredibly disappointed with the outcome.
“We are disappointed in this decision and will continue to pursue the enforcement of Mr. Smith’s rights through the judicial process,” his legal team said in a statement.
Execution by nitrogen gas has been legal since 2018, though it hasn’t been used yet. Governor Ivey hasn’t set a date for execution. Still, a 32-hour execution timeframe will begin on January 25th, 2024.