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Court rules on whether first US execution using nitrogen gas can proceed after botched attempt

Ben Thompson

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| Last updated 

Court rules on whether first US execution using nitrogen gas can proceed after botched attempt

Featured Image Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections / California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images

The Supreme Court of Alabama has given the go ahead for the state to proceed with the first prisoner execution using nitrogen gas.

This comes after a previous attempt to execute said prisoner failed.

Kenneth Smith was due to be executed via lethal injection in November, but survived.

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Smith, who was convicted of murder in 1996, inexplicably survived attempts to kill him.

Kenneth Smith is on death row for a 1996 murder. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections
Kenneth Smith is on death row for a 1996 murder. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections

Since then, Alabama's Attorney General Steve Marshall asked the Supreme Court to allow Smith to be executed an alternative way.

Smith will now have a face mask placed on his face that will be attached to a nitrogen tank, which will deprive him of oxygen.

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His lawyers have argued that the untested execution method would violate the US Constitution's ban on 'cruel and unusual punishments'.

They have also said that a second attempt to put him to death would be unconstitutional.

In a brief order issued by the state's court, the justices ordered Governor Kay Ivey to set a date for Smith's execution.

Two justices dissented from the order.

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A spokesperson for the governor said that her office had not yet determined a date.

Smith is the not only death row inmate to have survived his own demise.

Alan Miller was due to be executed for shooting three people in a 1989 murder spree.

But when it came time for his lethal injection, he said he could feel his veins 'being pushed around inside his body'.

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Alabama has one of the highest rates of prisoners on death row in the country. Credit: Pixabay
Alabama has one of the highest rates of prisoners on death row in the country. Credit: Pixabay

He filed a federal lawsuit after prison staff spent 90 minutes trying to locate a vein in which to inject him.

His attorneys claimed he was 'tortured'.

Ironically, Miller had requested to be executed in a gas chamber.

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Both of these cases took place in Alabama, which has the highest per capita capital punishment sentence rate in the country.

Remarkably, in some years, Alabama's courts sentence more people to death than Texas.

Just for contrast, Texas has a population that is five times the size of Alabama's.

If prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the state, it usually requires at least ten jurors to vote in favour of it.

Up until 2017, judges in Alabama could decide upon a death sentence even if the jury had voted for life imprisonment.

As of June 2018, the state had 175 inmates awaiting execution, which was the fourth highest among states.

Between 1983 and 2023, 70 people were put to death for crimes such as murder during a rape or murder of a victim younger than 14.

Topics: News, US News, Crime

Ben Thompson
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