The first nitrogen execution in US history was carried out in Alabama

The first nitrogen execution in US history was carried out in Alabama

The second time was the charm. Alabama executed Thursday afternoon Kenneth Eugene Smith, a man sentenced to death for the murder of a pastor’s wife in March 1988. The southern state had already tried to end the prisoner’s life in November 2022 with a lethal injection, but they gave up when they could not find the vein. Now they have achieved it by resorting to an innovative method of execution to add to the macabre list of existing systems: nitrogen asphyxiation.

Its execution lasted more than half an hour, 32 minutes, to be exact, from 7:53 pm when the process began, until 8:25 pm. As planned according to the previously announced protocol, Smith They placed a tight mask on his face so that he could inhale nitrogen until he ran out of oxygen and lost his life.

But it was not an instantaneous or rapid loss of consciousness, as state authorities had predicted. Smith58, was conscious for several minutes as the gas invaded his lungs, according to eyewitnesses.

He then “shivered and writhed” for at least two minutes before beginning to breathe heavily.

“This is the fifth execution I have witnessed in Alabama and I have never seen such a violent reaction to an execution,” said one of the journalists present at the William C. Holman prison in Atmore, Alabama. Smith He managed to say a few words before dying.

“Tonight Alabama makes humanity take a step back. Thank you for supporting me. I love you all.” Afterwards, he said goodbye to his wife with “I love you.”

This is the first execution of this type at the national level, a method that opens the door to future executions of its style and that has generated an enormous debate about the level of cruelty and pain that it can entail for the prisoner.