February 18, 2024
Alabama to Conduct First Execution by Nitrogen Gas Amid Controversy
World Crime United States of America

Alabama to Conduct First Execution by Nitrogen Gas Amid Controversy

Alabama to Conduct First Execution by Nitrogen Gas Amid Controversy

Alabama to Conduct First Execution by Nitrogen Gas Amid Controversy

Alabama is set to execute Kenneth Smith using nitrogen gas, a new method the state deems “the most painless and humane.” Smith, convicted of a 1988 murder-for-hire, previously survived a botched lethal injection attempt in November 2022. The new protocol involves restraining Smith on a gurney, attaching a respirator mask, and administering pure nitrogen to induce unconsciousness and death. Critics, including UN human rights experts, argue the method amounts to human experimentation and may result in injuries or a torturous death. Despite legal challenges, the execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Holman Correctional Facility.

Legal Challenges Over Execution Method

Kenneth Smith’s legal challenges to the new protocol were denied by the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals, prompting an expected appeal to the US Supreme Court. Concerns focus on the mask’s efficacy, potentially allowing oxygen seepage and risking brain injury. Smith’s lawyers proposed alternative methods like a hood filled with nitrogen or a firing squad. The Supreme Court also rejected Smith’s application to halt the execution on grounds of “cruel and unusual punishment” after the botched first attempt.

Controversial Nature of Nitrogen Gas Execution

Opponents question the state’s insufficient disclosure on mitigating risks, citing potential dangers for execution officials and others with the use of invisible, odorless gas. The state’s decision to use nitrogen over difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs adds to the controversy. Critics argue it is an attempt to obscure the violence of capital punishment. The execution is scheduled as states grapple with challenges in securing lethal injection drugs, leading some to explore alternative methods.

Note: Nitrogen is an invisible, odorless gas constituting about 78% of normal breathing air. Increasing its concentration may displace oxygen, posing risks of unconsciousness and death.

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