(HorizonPost.com) – The first execution by nitrogen hypoxia was carried out last Thursday in Alabama when the state executed Kenneth Eugene Smith at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility, CBS News reported.
In a press briefing after the execution, Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the process began at 7:53 p.m. and Smith died at 8:25 p.m., with the mask remaining on the inmate for five minutes after he died.
In his last words, Smith accused the state of causing humanity “to take a step backward.”
Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma are the only states that have authorized the use of nitrogen gas as a method of execution. However, Smith’s was the first execution in the country to use the controversial method.
When a reporter asked Commissioner Hamm about Smith appearing to “shake and writhe” for a couple of minutes, the commissioner explained that Smith appeared to hold his breath “for as long as he could” to avoid inhaling the nitrogen.
According to Commissioner Hamm, involuntary movements are an “expected” side effect of nitrogen hypoxia.
Smith was convicted of the 1988 murder for hire of Elizabeth Sennett along with his accomplice Joseph Forrest Parker. Smith and Parker were each paid $1,000 by Sennett’s husband Rev. Charles Sennett who planned to use his wife’s life insurance money to pay his debts.
Parker was executed in 2010 by lethal injection.
At Thursday’s press briefing, Elizabeth Sennett’s son Mike said it was “a bittersweet day.” He said his family would not be “jumping around” in celebration over Smith’s execution, however, “we’re glad this day is over.”
Sennett said Kenneth Smith’s “debt was paid tonight” and his mother “got her justice.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who announced in November that Smith would be executed on January 25, confirmed in a statement Thursday evening that the execution had taken place by the method Smith requested “as an alternative to lethal injection.” She said Smith “got what he asked for” “at long last.”
In early January, the special procedures program of the UN Human Rights Council issued a plea to the federal government and officials in Alabama to review the method of execution, arguing that nitrogen gas could “result in a painful and humiliating death.”
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