Alabama executes prisoner with new nitrogen asphyxiation method

Alabama executes prisoner with new nitrogen asphyxiation method
# 26 January 2024 09:00 (UTC +04:00)

Alabama executed convicted murderer Kenneth Smith by asphyxiating him with nitrogen gas on Thursday, the first use of a new method of capital punishment that the state is advancing as a simpler alternative to lethal injections, APA reports citing Reuters.

The state has called its new protocol "the most painless and humane method of execution known to man."

United Nations human rights experts and lawyers for Smith had sought to prevent it, saying the method was risky, experimental and could lead to a torturous death or non-fatal injury.

Smith, convicted of a 1988 murder-for-hire, was a rare prisoner who had already survived one execution attempt. In November 2022, Alabama officials aborted his execution by lethal injection after struggling for hours to insert an intravenous line's needle in his body.

In Smith's second and final trip to the execution chamber on Thursday, executioners restrained him in a gurney and strapped a commercial industrial-safety respirator mask to his face. A canister of pure nitrogen was attached to the mask that once flowing, deprived him of oxygen.

The execution began at 7:53 p.m. (0153 GMT Friday) and Smith was declared dead at 8:25 p.m. (0225 GMT), prison officials said.

Smith appeared to remain conscious for several minutes after the nitrogen was activated, according to five journalists were allowed to watch the execution through glass as media witnesses. He then began shaking and writhing on the gurney for about two minutes, and then could be seen breathing deeply for several minutes before his breathing slowed and became imperceptible, the witnesses said.

Alabama officials had said in court filings they expected Smith would be rendered unconscious in under a minute and die shortly after.

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