Alabama murderer, Kenneth Smith has become the first person in the world to be put to death by nitrogen gas after officials at the Alabama Department of Corrections executed him.
Smith, 58, was executed on Thursday, January 25, at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. He died from nitrogen hypoxia at 8.25pm CT, the state’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey confirmed.
“On March 18, 1988, 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett’s life was brutally taken from her by Kenneth Eugene Smith.
After more than 30 years and attempt after attempt to game the system, Mr Smith has answered for his horrendous crimes,” Ms Ivey said in a written statement.
“The execution was lawfully carried out by nitrogen hypoxia, the method previously requested by Mr Smith as an alternative to lethal injection. At long last, Mr Smith got what he asked for, and this case can finally be put to rest.
“I pray that Elizabeth Sennett’s family can receive closure after all these years dealing with that great loss.”
Before his execution, Smith was visited in prison by his wife and sons, who also witnessed his execution. His last meal was steak, eggs and hash browns.
Media witnesses who saw correctional authorities administer the death penalty said the prisoner’s final words included, “Tonight Alabama causes humanity to take a step backwards… Thank you for supporting me. Love you all.
“I’m leaving with love, peace, and light.”
As officials conducted the execution at 7.53pm, Smith turned to his family and signed “I love you.” The witnesses reported seeing Smith shaking and writhing. The curtains closed at 8.15pm.
Ms Sennett’s sons, Mike and Chuck Sennett, addressed members of the media following the execution.
“Nothing happened here today is going to bring mom back,” Chuck Sennett said from a podium at the correctional facility. “It’s kind of a bittersweet day. We’re not going to be jumping around…We’re glad this day is over.”
He continued his remarks by saying that he’s forgiven all of the men who played a role in his mother’s death.
“Evil deeds have consequences,” Ms Sennett’s son added. “Kenneth Smith made some bad decisions 35 years ago and his debt was paid tonight.”
It was the second attempt to execute Smith. In November 2022, officials attempted to kill him with lethal injection but were unable to place two intravenous lines into his system for four hours. Authorities eventually gave up because Smith’s death warrant was expiring.
At the time, it was the third consecutive botched execution attempt by the state using lethal injection. Smith said the experience left him with physical and psychological pain, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Speaking about his second execution attempt, Smith voiced his preference for nitrogen hypoxia but expressed concern about the state’s untested method, including the likelihood that he could vomit, be left in a vegetative state, or experience the painful sensation of suffocation.
According to Alabama’s death penalty protocol for nitrogen hypoxia, prisoners are to be put to death with a fitted mask and breathing tube to control gas, slowly depriving them of oxygen.