US prisoner who lost last-minute appeals faces his first nitrogen execution

Kenneth Eugene Smith faces execution over a 1988 murder

A person in Alabama who has been sentenced to death is likely to be the first in the US to be executed using nitrogen gas, even though they tried to appeal their sentence.

The highest court in the US and another lower court decided not to stop a punishment that Kenneth Eugene Smith‘s lawyers said was too harsh.

Some people argue that using nitrogen could make others suffer and a leak could hurt people in the room.

Smith, who is 58 years old, was found guilty in 1989 of killing Elizabeth Sennett.

Alabama has until Thursday at 0600 GMT (0100 ET) to execute someone by pumping nitrogen gas through a mask for 30 hours.

Earlier this week, he told the BBC that waiting felt really awful.

Smith will be the first person to be killed using this method in the US and in the whole world.

The prisoner’s lawyers, who have been representing him since 1996, told the media on Wednesday that they were making a new request to the highest court in the country in the hope of stopping the execution at the last moment.

Inhaling only nitrogen without oxygen can make cells break and leads to dying. Alabama said in a court document that they think he will pass out very quickly and die shortly after.

However, some doctors say it is not safe and could cause serious problems like seizures or being in a coma.

Alabama and two other states in the US have said it’s okay to use nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injections when executing people. This is because it’s getting harder to find the drugs needed for lethal injections.

Two years ago, Alabama tried to execute Smith by injecting a deadly drug, but they couldn’t find a vein before the time to kill him expired.

Smith was found guilty of killing Sennett for money in March 1988.

She was hit with a tool from the fireplace, and stabbed in the chest and neck. Her death was made to look like someone broke into her home and stole things.

Her husband, who owed a lot of money, had planned the scheme to get insurance money. He took his own life when the police were about to catch him.

Smith’s friend who also kills people for money, John Forrest Parker, was put to death in 2010.

At the trial, Smith said he was there when the victim was killed, but he didn’t actually join in the attack.

The UN’s top human rights official said that using gas on Smith could be considered torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and called for it to stop.

Smith’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to stop multiple execution attempts because they believe it is cruel and against the Constitution.

On Wednesday, the judges said no to his request to stop the execution. No one spoke out against the decision in public.

Smith also went to another court to challenge the legality of Alabama’s nitrogen gas protocol.

However, the court denied the prisoner’s request for a temporary order in a decision on Wednesday night.

Smith’s legal team said they will ask the Supreme Court to review the case again.

His lawyers say that the nitrogen gas method is new and not proven. They worry that he could choke on his own vomit.

State lawyer Steve Marshall said it was possibly the kindest way to carry out an execution.

Smith’s religious counselor, Reverend Jeff Hood, will be in the room when the execution takes place. He thinks he could be in trouble if the nitrogen leaks, but he would rather risk his life than give up his job.

Alabama executes a lot of people compared to other states in the US. Right now, there are 165 people waiting to be executed in Alabama.

Since 2018, the state has tried three times to give lethal injection to prisoners, but it didn’t work and the prisoners didn’t die.

The mistakes made by the prisoners caused the authorities to review the situation and mostly blame the prisoners.


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