Kenneth Smith was executed with pure nitrogen at Holman Penitentiary in Atmore, Alabama. It is the first time in history that a death sentence has been carried out with this method, which has never been tested before on humans. The green light for the procedure, initially scheduled for 6pm local time and then postponed by over an hour, came only after the ruling of the United States Supreme Court, which also rejected the latest petition presented by the man’s lawyers to stop execution via nitrogen. The decision was made with the liberal justices against it.
According to what was learned, there were five witnesses present in the room next to the one where the sentence was carried out, members of Smith’s family and friends. The condemned man was made to wear a mask through which gas was administered: a procedure that leads to death by suffocation. The man was pronounced dead at 8.25pm local time. This is the first case in the world: despite having been used in the past to euthanize domestic animals, this procedure had never been performed on humans.
The last words
According to witnesses who witnessed the execution, shortly before putting on the mask that would have made him inhale the gas, Smith uttered his last words: “Tonight Alabama takes humanity a step back. I leave with love , peace and light, I love you. Thank you for supporting me.” The governor of Alabama confirmed that the death sentence had been carried out with a message: “After 30 years and various attempts to cheat the system, Smith has answered for his horrendous crimes.”
The murder and the first failed execution
The 58-year-old man was sentenced to death for committing a murder-for-hire in 1988, when he and an accomplice stabbed a preacher’s wife to death. For that crime, Kenneth Smith – in his early twenties at the time – had received a reward of one thousand dollars.
The man had survived a first execution which should have taken place in November 2022 by lethal injection. After four hours, in fact, the authorities had still not managed to identify the right vein in the condemned man’s arm. The execution was therefore interrupted.
The Last Hours of Kenneth Smith
Before the execution via nitrogen inhalation, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections made Smith’s final hours public. On Wednesday and Thursday the man received nine visitors and spoke to his wife on the phone on both days. On Wednesday he refused breakfast and did not eat lunch, limiting himself to partially eating dinner. Finally on Thursday, a few hours before the execution, he accepted breakfast and the last meal, based on steak, chips and eggs.