The Last Words of Kenneth Smith Before His Execution in Alabama

( – Alabama has used a new execution method to kill a convicted murderer. The last works of Kenneth Eugene Smith have now been released. He used his final opportunity to criticize the state for killing him with nitrogen gas, even though he’d requested it himself.

In 1989, Kenneth Smith was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the 1988 murder for hire of Elizabeth Sennett. In November 2022, his appeals finally ran out, and he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at Alabama’s Holman Correctional Facility, but the prison staff were unable to connect him to the lethal apparatus. A new warrant was issued for his execution on January 25, this time using an untried method: asphyxiation with nitrogen gas. Smith had asked for the second attempt to use nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection.

Nitrogen makes up about 78% of the air we breathe. It’s not toxic, but it’s inert, and pure nitrogen can’t support life. State officials said once Smith was breathing pure nitrogen through a mask, he should lose consciousness within 30 seconds and die painlessly soon after. Human rights groups warned that, because the method hadn’t been used before, there was a chance it would be a cruel and painful way to execute someone.

Smith had obviously been listening to the human rights groups, because after eating his final meal, he spoke his last words, which were: “Tonight Alabama causes humanity to take a step backwards. I’m leaving with love, peace and light.” He was then led to the execution chamber, strapped to a gurney and a mask connected to a tank of nitrogen.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said Smith tried to hold his breath for up to four minutes after the gas was turned on, but 11 minutes after the system was activated, he was completely still. He was declared dead half an hour after the execution began. In a statement, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) said justice had been served.

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