Alabama completes first execution by nitrogen asphyxiation

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Alabama put to death convicted murderer Kenneth Smith on Thursday evening, Govenor Kay Ivey said, completing the first execution using asphyxiation by nitrogen gas, which the state is advancing as a simpler alternative to lethal injections.

The state has called its new protocol “the most painless and humane method of execution known to man.”

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United Nations human rights experts and lawyers for Smith, who survived Alabama's previous botched attempt to execute him by lethal injection, had sought to prevent it, saying the method was risky, experimental and could lead to a torturous death or non-fatal injury.

Alabama prison officials and journalists who observed Smith's execution were due to brief reporters later on Thursday evening.

Smith, convicted of a 1988 murder-for-hire, was a rare prisoner who has already survived one execution attempt. In November 2022, Alabama officials aborted his execution by lethal injection after struggling for hours to insert an intravenous line's needle in his body.

“On March 18, 1988, 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett's life was brutally taken from her by Kenneth Eugene Smith,” Governor Ivery said in a statement. “After more than 30 years and attempt after attempt to game the system, Mr. Smith has answered for his horrendous crimes.”

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