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Judge signs off on first-ever use of new execution method

Judge signs off on first-ever use of new execution method

A US district judge had signed off the execution for inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith.

A judge has signed off on the first-ever use of a new execution method in Alabama.

The US district judge has given the green light for the first-ever execution by nitrogen gas asphyxiation to go ahead - in what is a landmark moment for the criminal justice system in the states.

The recently ruling means that Alabama inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith is scheduled to death using the new method on January 25 - though his attorney has launched an appeal against the decision, Associated Press reports.

Judge R. Austin Huffaker rejected Smith's request for a preliminary injunction to stop his scheduled death later this month, with his attorney alleging that Alabama is trying to make Smith the 'test subject' when it comes to the current execution method.

Smith has so far survived the state’s three previous attempts to carrying out his execution by lethal injection - which resulted in a pause in executions.

Hitman Kenneth Eugene Smith was convicted of capital murder.
Alabama Department of Corrections

Under the current plans put forward by the state of Alabama, a respirator is to be placed over Smith's nose and mouth in order to replace all breathable air with nitrogen gas.

This will ultimately lead to Smith suffocating and losing his life.

At a court hearing in December, the state attorney general’s office said that the method would 'cause unconsciousness within seconds, and cause death within minutes', as reported by the Associated Press.

After making his latest ruling, Huffaker conceded that his decision means that 'Smith is not guaranteed a painless death', though he added that the inmate 'has not shown, and the court cannot conclude, the Protocol inflicts both cruel and unusual punishment rendering it constitutionally infirm under the prevailing legal framework'.

"Smith has avoided his lawful death sentence for over 35 years, but the court’s rejection today of Smith’s speculative claims removes an obstacle to finally seeing justice done," a statement from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall added.

A judge has signed off the new execution method.
Getty Stock Images

Smith was first convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for his crimes in 1989 and again in 1996.

He was hired by Charles Sennett, the pastor of the Westside Church of Christ in Sheffield, Alabama, in 1988, who reportedly wanted his wife Elizabeth murdered in exchange for a large insurance policy.

Smith and his friend, John Parker, were reportedly each paid $1,000 to conduct the murder.

Elizabeth was ambushed, punched, beaten, and bludgeoned, and stabbed over and over again with a six-inch survival knife, The Independent reports.

The wife suffered a total of ten stab wounds—eight to her chest and two to her neck—which proved fatal.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Images

Topics: Crime, US News