Death Row Inmate To Become First To Be Executed Using Controversial New Method

Death Row Inmate To Become First To Be Executed Using Controversial New Method Alabama Department of Corrections | iStock/Frankvandenbergh

An Alabama prisoner is set to become the first death row inmate to ever be executed using an extremely controversial new method. Kenneth Eugene Smith was a hitman convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1989 and 1996, respectively. Now, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall wants to set a date to end Smith’s life via nitrogen hypoxia, the Daily Mail reports.

  1. Nitrogen hypoxia basically suffocates the person to death. The inmate breathes in only nitrogen, meaning their brain and body is slowly deprived of oxygen and they die. No method of execution is painless or particularly kind, but this one seems especially barbaric.
  2. The execution method is legal in three states. So far, only Alabama, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have OK’d the use of nitrogen hypoxia, but none of them have actually used them. If Steve Marshall has his way, per the motion filed with the Alabama Supreme Court on August 25, that’s soon about to change.
  3. Kenneth Eugene Smith was a hired hitman. Charles Sennett, the pastor of the Westside Church of Christ in the town of Sheffield, hired Smith in 1988 to kill his wife, Elizabeth, so he could collect her life insurance money. The pastor was cheating at the time and in serious date, so he paid Smith and Smith’s friend John Parker $1,000 each to get rid of Elizabeth.
  4. Elizabeth was brutally murdered by Smith and his accomplice. They kidnapped her before they began beating, punching, and bludgeoning her. She was then stabbed repeatedly with a six-inch survival knife. Those stab wounds eventually took her life.
  5. Smith was originally scheduled to be executed on November 17, 2022. However, Smith raised a last-minute rebuttal to the execution method the state wanted to use. “After substantial litigation, the United States Supreme Court permitted Smith’s execution to go forward late in the evening of November 17, 2022, but the State was unable to obtain the intravenous access required by Alabama’s protocol within the time remaining before the death warrant expired,” a court filing stated. “A federal challenge to Alabama’s use of lethal injection as a method of execution for Smith remains pending in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.”
  6. Apparently, Smith wants to be executed via nitrogen hypoxia. The inmate’s “prayer for relief in that matter seeks execution” using the controversial method, and the state of Alabama is all too happy to provide it.
  7. In late 2022, another execution using nitrogen hypoxia was halted in Alabama. Alan Eugene Miller even made it so far as to make it to the execution chamber in September 2022, but officials were unable to find his veins in which they would administer the injection, so it was called off.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill