Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted in 1989 for murdering Elizabeth Sennett, was executed in Alabama using nitrogen hypoxia. The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released its final report into the deaths of six poultry plant workers in December 2023, all victims of nitrogen asphyxiation. The Gainesville, Georgia facility and Atmore correctional facility were found to have inadequately trained and equipped staff to handle deadly leaks.
The US lacks a national standard on managing, storing, use, and handling cryogenic asphyxiants like liquid nitrogen. The degrading nature of the Smith execution was highlighted by the fact that many US veterinarians would not even consider using nitrogen in euthanasia. In 2020, the American Veterinary Medical Association stated that using nitrogen was problematic for mammal species and that gas must be supplied in a precisely regulated and purified form without contaminants or adulterants.
UN experts warn that nitrogen asphyxiation, an untested method of execution, may subject Smith to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or torture. The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution often serves as a form of subversive encouragement to murderous authorities, but the onus is on officials to come up with a form of punishment that is not cruel or unusual.
Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama have all allowed prison staff to use nitrogen gas for lethal injections, despite concerns about the risks of intruding oxygen through a mask. The use of nitrogen gas has been influenced by market considerations, as drugs used in lethal injections are becoming harder to obtain due to shortages or restrictions by pharmaceutical companies. Alabama’s protocol for administering nitrogen gas faced scrutiny, as intruding oxygen could trigger strokes, vegetative states, or suffocation.
Depriving a person of oxygen could also lead to vomiting, choking the victim. Correction officials and lawmakers have been unaware of these complications, with just retribution, deterrence, and the confusion of novelty with humane policy being common justifications. Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour emphasized the confusion between novelty and humane policy, claiming his state had adopted the most painless and humane method of execution known to man.
Kenneth Smith, a condemned inmate in Alabama, was executed in a brutal and brutal manner. Officials had predicted that Smith would lose consciousness within seconds and die within minutes. Witnesses, including journalists, became vicarious participants in the execution, often becoming apologists for the spectacle featuring murder. The execution took about 25 minutes in total, with Smith gasping for air repeatedly.
The Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner, John Hamm, rationalized the incident, stating that Smith’s involuntary movements and rapid loss of consciousness were expected. The state’s Attorney General, Steve Marshall, criticized the execution for being crudely experimental and economically determined, stating that it was a cruel rationalisation of cold intent and an exemplar of state cruelty. The execution was a brutal and brutal act, showcasing the brutality of state cruelty. The execution was a stark reminder of the brutality of human suffering and the need for justice and justice.