June 17, 2024

 

UN denounces Alabama’s nitrogen gas execution, says….

Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death Thursday night at a state prison in Atmore, Alabama.

A journalist who witnessed the execution told the BBC that Smith thrashed violently on the gurney.

Smith was convicted in 1989 of murdering a preacher’s wife, Elizabeth Sennett, in a killing-for-hire.

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The execution process began at 19:53 local time (01:53 GMT) and Smith was pronounced dead about half of an hour later at 20:25 (02:35 GMT).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said he had “serious concerns this novel and untested method of suffocation by nitrogen gas may amount to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

In a statement, EU officials called nitrogen gas “a particularly cruel and unusual punishment”.

One of the five reporters who witnessed the execution told the BBC it was unlike any other he’d seen.

“I’ve been to four previous executions and I’ve never seen a condemned inmate thrash in the way that Kenneth Smith reacted to the nitrogen gas,”, Alabama journalist Lee Hedgepeth told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

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“Kenny just began to gasp for air repeatedly and the execution took about 25 minutes total.”

Inhaling pure nitrogen gas cuts off the oxygen supply to the brain. The procedure had never been used before in an execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Alabama officials had said in an earlier court filing they expected Smith to lose consciousness within seconds and die in a matter of minutes.

Smith’s spiritual adviser, the Reverend Jeff Hood, said after the execution: “I think that anybody that witnessed this knows that we didn’t see someone go unconscious in two or three seconds.”

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