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Attorney General defends 'textbook' execution of death row prisoner despite backlash for 'inhumane' method
Featured Image Credit: Credit: Alabama Department of Correction / ABC News

Attorney General defends 'textbook' execution of death row prisoner despite backlash for 'inhumane' method

The controversial new technique was used for the first time on 25 January.

Yesterday a death row inmate was executed using a controversial new method - with Alabama's attorney general describing the execution as 'textbook'.

Kenneth Eugene Smith was convicted of capital murder for the brutal murder-for-hire of 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett back in 1988.

He and another man, John Forrest Parker, stabbed the woman at her home in Alabama after allegedly being paid by her husband, pastor Charles Sennett Sr, to kill her in order to claim a large insurance policy pay out.

She was stabbed 10 times in her home, suffering eight wounds to the chest and two to the neck - which proved to be fatal.

Parker was executed via lethal injection in 2010.

Having remained on death row for over two decades, Smith was originally supposed to die via lethal injection back in November 2022.

However, executioners were unable to locate a vein and abandoned the proceedings when the state's warrant for his death expired at midnight.

Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death using nitrogen gas.
Alabama Department of Corrections

Last year, it was announced that Smith would be executed via nitrogen hypoxia - which had never been used on a human before.

The state attorney's general office said during a December court hearing that the method would 'cause unconsciousness within seconds, and cause death within minutes'.

However, Smith's representatives consistently claimed this method would violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects people against 'cruel and unusual' punishments.

The US Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal and declined his request to halt the execution.

Smith was pronounced dead at 8.25pm yesterday (January 25) at Alabama's Holman Correctional Facility, after breathing the gas through a face mask for 22 minutes to cause oxygen deprivation.

Since hearing of the 'violent' and 'shocking' procedure - as described by witnesses to Smith's death - protestors have accused decision-makers of administering an 'inhumane' means of ending his life.

Smith had been on death row for decades.

Responding to the criticism, however, Attorney General of Alabama, Steve Marshall described Smith's death as a 'textbook' execution.

In a press conference today (January 26), he said: "What occurred last night was textbook. As of last night, nitrogen hypoxia as a means of execution is no longer an untested method. It is a proven one."

He added that 43 inmates have selected to use nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution.

In a written statement on January 25, he said that despite the effort made by activists to 'undermine and disparage our state's justice system and to deny justice to the victims of heinous murders', their 'proven method' offers a 'blueprint' for other states and as a warning to 'those who would contemplate shedding innocent blood'.

Alabama Corrections commissioner John Q. Hamm also addressed the execution technique - which saw Smith 'thrashing' and 'gasping for air'.

"That was all expected and was in the side effects that we’ve seen or researched on nitrogen hypoxia." he said.

"Nothing was out of the ordinary from what we were expecting."

Topics: Crime, True crime, Death Row, US News