“Nitrogen hypoxia”. It is the method Alabama plans to use for executing death row prisoners. Although the practice has also been approved in Mississippi and Oklahoma, it has never been tested and is also considered unacceptable by veterinarians as a form of euthanasia for animals. But the attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court, AP writes, to set a new execution date for Kenneth Smith using this method – which replaces the oxygen inhaled by the condemned man with nitrogen. The latter survived an execution nine months ago, according to the Guardian, in which he was given a lethal injection that, according to his lawyers, caused him pain comparable to torture.
The method in question was supposed to work by replacing the oxygen inhaled, in this case by Smith, with nitrogen. Within minutes, this would reduce oxygen levels in the condemned man’s brain and other vital organs to fatally low levels, resulting in his death by asphyxiation. An inhumane practice denounced by US death penalty experts as being in every sense “an experiment on a human guinea pig”. The choice of Smith as the primary candidate for the technique, less than a year after his (botched) execution, was also criticized as a double violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Who is Kenneth Smith?
Smith, writes the British newspaper, was convicted of the murder of Elizabeth Sennett in 1988. The 58-year-old received $1,000 from the woman’s husband, a pastor who was in debt and wanted to collect the insurance premium. At trial, the jury voted 1-11 to give the defendant a life sentence, but the judge overturned the decision and sent Smith to death row. “Alabama had already tortured Kenneth Smith once, tying him up and stabbing him with needles for more than an hour in a failed attempt to kill him. “It is astonishingly reckless and cruel to try again an untested method of execution that could likely cause terrible suffering,” said Maya Foa, head of the human rights organization Reprieve. Foa also added that Alabama’s published nitrogen hypoxia protocol is vague. “Those responsible obviously don’t know what they’re doing,” the manager continues, “and are hoping for the best.” The state treats a person like a guinea pig in a laboratory and calls it justice,” concluded Foa.