In a landmark decision, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama has set a date for the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith. Smith, who endured a failed lethal injection last year, has opted for death by nitrogen hypoxia. This approach, not yet tested in any state, will trigger a thirty-hour countdown to the execution, commencing at midnight on January 25, 2024.
Governor Ivey communicated this choice through a letter directed to John Hamm, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections. The correctional facility has until 6 a.m. the day after the commencement to carry out the execution. The Alabama Supreme Court approved this method with a 6-2 decision last week, responding to a petition from Attorney General Steve Marshall for an execution warrant for Smith.
The original date of Smith’s execution was November 17, 2022. However, issues arose when medical personnel had trouble making the necessary IV connections for the lethal injection.
The forthcoming execution is set to establish a precedent, representing the inaugural application of nitrogen hypoxia in the United States. While Oklahoma and Mississippi have the authorization to employ nitrogen gas for executions, they have not employed this method to date.
The suggested approach will require the inmate to be deprived of oxygen, forcing exclusive inhalation of nitrogen. Advocates contend that the procedure is devoid of pain, whereas critics draw parallels to human experimentation. Smith’s legal representatives have raised objections to this method, characterizing it as experimental in a court filing submitted in September.
Smith was sentenced to death for his role in the 1988 planned killing of Elizabeth Sennett. The murder was orchestrated by her husband, Rev. Charles Sennett, a pastor aiming to alleviate his financial troubles through her life insurance. Rev. Sennett was additionally entangled in an extramarital affair.
According to Attorney General Marshall, Sennett schemed the murder of his wife as a cowardly effort to escape both his financial obligations and marital duties. Smith and his partner, John Parker, were compensated with $1,000 to carry out the sinister plan, leading to the brutal and deadly assault on Elizabeth Sennett. Parker faced execution in 2010.
In her concluding statements to Commissioner Hamm, Governor Ivey asserted her authority to grant a reprieve or commutation prior to the execution. Nevertheless, she has no intentions of extending clemency in this particular case.