Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

A first execution by nitrogen inhalation in Alabama

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Protesters gathered in front of the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, on Tuesday to denounce the upcoming execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith.

Agence France-Presse

The American state of Alabama is preparing to put to death a convict on Thursday by inhaling nitrogen, a world first denounced by the UN, which compared this mode of x27;execution as a form of “torture”.

The execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith, definitively sentenced in 1996 to the death penalty for murder of a woman ordered by her husband, will be the first of the year in the United States, where 24 executions were carried out in 2023, all by lethal injection.

The Republican governor of this southeastern state, Kay Ivey, has set Thursday, 6 a.m., as the start of the 36-hour period during which the execution can take place.

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Kenneth Eugene Smith

A previous execution attempt of Kenneth Eugene Smith by lethal injection on November 17, 2022, had been canceled in extremis. The intravenous drips to inject him with the deadly solution could not be placed within the legally allotted time even though he had been tied up for several hours, according to his lawyers.

Alabama is one of three American states that authorizes executions by nitrogen inhalation, in which death is caused by hypoxia (depletion of oxygen). #x27;oxygen).

Last week, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it was alarmed by this planned execution using a new and untested method, the #x27;nitrogen hypoxia.

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This could constitute torture or other cruel or degrading treatment under international law, warned a spokesperson for the High Commissioner, Ravina Shamdasani, who called for a stay of this execution.

The Alabama nitrogen hypoxia execution protocol does not provide for sedation, while the American Association Veterinarian (AVMA) recommends administering a sedative to animals, even large ones, when they are euthanized in this way, the spokesperson emphasized.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, whose appeals in Alabama were rejected, appealed to the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that this new execution attempt would violate his constitutional rights. However, the country's highest court, with a conservative majority, rejected his request for a stay on Wednesday.

In its written arguments to the Supreme Court opposing it, the State of Alabama even went so far as to present nitrogen hypoxia as a possible to be the most humane method of execution ever invented.

Kenneth Eugene Smith was convicted of the murder of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, 45 years old, occurred in 1988. It had been ordered by the victim's husband, Charles Sennett, a heavily indebted and unfaithful pastor who had wanted to make people believe it was a burglary gone wrong.

Despite the husband's suicide, the police traced the two murderers. Kenneth Eugene Smith's accomplice, John Forrest Parker, was sentenced to death and executed in 2010.

Kenneth Smith was also first sentenced once faced with the death penalty, but the trial was overturned on appeal. At his second trial in 1996, the jurors were divided on the sentence: 11 out of 12 recommended a life sentence.

However, in his case as in that of his accomplice, the judge had ignored the opinion of the jurors and sentenced him to the death penalty , a possibility which existed at the time in a few states but has now been abolished throughout the United States.

In its annual report published in December, the specialized observatory Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) pointed out that most prisoners executed in 2023 in the United States would probably not be sentenced to death today. He cited among the reasons the mental health problems and trauma of the defendants as well as legislative changes to pronounce the death penalty.

The death penalty has been abolished in 23 American states, while six others observe a moratorium on its application by decision of the governor.

By admin

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