This Thursday, the 25th, for the first time in the history of the United States, a prisoner was killed by direct inhalation of nitrogen, a process that has gathered a long list of criticisms against him because of the pain it causes to those who receive it.
Kenneth Eugene Smith, 51, was sentenced to death in the state of Alabama in 1996 after being found guilty of murdering Elizabeth Sennett in 1988. Smith committed the crime at the request of the victim’s husband, Charles Sennett, a preacher. who has serious financial problems that he plans to solve by collecting on his wife’s life insurance.
Smith conspired with John Forrest Parker. Each received a thousand dollars as compensation for the murder.
Due to the investigations, Sennett committed suicide a week after killing his wife. Parker, meanwhile, was killed in an Alabama prison in 2010.
Smith, however, remained on death row until fourteen months later. In November 2022, the murderer was taken to the “death cell,” as it is known, the small room where the condemned were taken a few days before they were executed.
From there, he said goodbye to his mother and his grandson. They served him his last meal and took him to the room where he would be given the lethal injection. Four hours later, however, Smith left the room.
The assassination failed because several attempts by the agents to find a root through which to introduce the deadly cocktail were unsuccessful. As a result, Smith suffered many cuts and bruises during the procedure, according to his lawyers, who took the case to court to demand that their client not be subjected to what they described as real torture again.
A federal court described the episode as “horrific,” according to the NGO, and three Supreme Court judges described it as torture, causing him to suffer “extreme pain and suffering” that causes post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, that did not free Smith from his fatal fate. Instead, it was decided that the criminal would be killed by direct inhalation of nitrogen, a controversial and still experimental method.
What is death by nitrogen?
Nitrogen hypoxia is a procedure in which nitrogen, pure or in a concentration sufficient to kill, is inhaled until asphyxiation.
For this, the prisoner enters a room called the “death chamber,” where he is placed in an airtight mask where nitrogen is supplied for a maximum of 15 minutes.
Because of the danger that a leak could cause collateral damage, only the condemned are in the death chamber. Therefore, the presence of a spiritual advisor will only be allowed if they agree to sign a document that releases the state of Alabama from its responsibilities.
In Smith’s case, he was joined by Reverend Jeff Hood, who agreed to sign the border.
The protocol for implementation is carefully designed because of the risks inherent in the process. The wall of the room has an oxygen meter to verify that they are charged in case of an event. The convict was also fitted with a pulse oximeter that showed the level of oxygen saturation in the blood.
Until the last moment, however, the execution of Smith was prevented because his lawyers filed an appeal before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and before the Supreme Court stating that their client was used in the experiment.
The state, on the other hand, defends itself by ensuring that it is “the most painless and humane method of execution known to man” because the sentenced person quickly loses consciousness.
This argument convinced the Supreme Court, but the Court of Appeals failed to rule, so the execution was finally carried out.
There are now 23 states that have abolished the death penalty, but it continues to be implemented in other parts of the territory. In 2023, 24 prisoners were executed
It is now the most common method of execution in the United States. It was used for the first time in 1977 to replace the methods used at the time, as it was considered a more humane practice. The injection usually consists of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. However, the refusal of some pharmaceutical companies to supply these drugs to the states has led to many sentences being suspended.
Used since 1890, when William Kemmler was executed, it became the most widely used method in the United States in the early 20th century. In the 21st century, its use was replaced by other methods after various courts noted that the chair caused “excruciating suffering” to the condemned. Currently, however, states such as Florida, Nebraska, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee continue to use it.
Shooting of the oldest methods of execution in the world. Until now, its use has become less frequent. However, it is still valid in the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah. In these areas, it is used, above all, when there are no available drugs for lethal injection.
Unlike in Japan, where it is the most used method of execution, in the United States, hanging is legal only in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Washington. Despite being one of the main methods of execution at the end of the 19th century, the last time it was applied in a North American country was in January 1996, in Delaware.