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Prison pastor describes final hours before death row inmate died of ‘inhumane’ method used for first time
Featured Image Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections

Prison pastor describes final hours before death row inmate died of ‘inhumane’ method used for first time

Kenneth Smith became the first human to undergo the controversial new execution method in Alabama

The prison pastor for Kenneth Eugene Smith described how the death row inmate spent his final hours before being executed by a controversial new method.

Smith died at the age of 58 yesterday (25 January) after decades on death row following his conviction in the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Sennett.

Yesterday marked the second time Smith visited the death chamber, after a previous attempt to end his life with lethal injection failed in 2022 when the executioners struggled to find a vein.

With the death sentence still looming, Smith became what some described as a 'guinea pig' as he was the first human to face death by nitrogen hypoxia; a method some critics described as 'inhumane'.

At the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama executioners put a mask over Smith's face and administered pure nitrogen; depriving him of the oxygen needed to survive.

Pastor John Ewell, who worked with Smith before his death, told the Daily Mail the inmate was struggling to come to terms with the method through which his life would end.

Kenneth Smith died by being given nitrogen gas.
Getty Stock Image

Speaking in Smith's final hours, Ewell said: "He's being strong for his family, but it's rough."

Ewell went on to say Smith had been relying on his faith to help him cope with the notion of his final moments.

"He's a Godly man, and he loves Jesus, but this stuff would be hard on anybody," Ewell said.

With Smith previously having lived through one visit to the death chamber as well as two execution appeals, Ewell expressed belief the inmate was hopeful that his execution was 'going to be stopped again.'

In his final 48 hours, Smith spent time with Ewell as well as with members of his family, two friends and his attorney.

Smith had his final meal on the morning of his execution.
Alabama Department of Corrections

He was given a tray for breakfast consisting of two biscuits, eggs, grape jelly, applesauce and orange juice, however Smith is said to have refused the meal.

The inmate also turned down a tray of food for lunch, though he did drink Mountain Dew and Pepsi.

His final meal consisted of steak, hash browns and eggs, and after 4pm on the day of his death he was ordered to only consume clear liquids.

Smith had one last phone call with his wife, Deanna Smith, before he had the mask fitted over his face in the death chamber.

Smith was pronounced dead at 8:25pm local time, 22 minutes after the nitrogen gas was first administered.

Topics: Death Row, US News, Crime