Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Alabama executes a convict by nitrogen inhalation, a world first

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The first prison execution with nitrogen took place at Atmore Prison at 8:25 p.m. local time.

Agence France-Presse

The American state of Alabama executed Kenneth Eugene Smith by nitrogen inhalation on Thursday, a world first criticized by the #x27;UN who compared this mode of execution to a form of “torture”.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, definitively sentenced to death in 1996 for the murder of a woman ordered by her husband, died at Atmore penitentiary at 8:25 p.m. local time, several local media reported, citing a statement from Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

A previous attempt to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith by lethal injection on November 17, 2022 was called off at the last minute. 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.

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This undated photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith, who was convicted of murder-for-hire of a pastor's wife in 1988.

Alabama, located in the southeastern United States, is one of three U.S. states that permits execution by nitrogen inhalation, in which death is caused by hypoxia ( depletion of oxygen).

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) x27;is said on January 16 alarmed by the use of a new and untested method of execution, 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 commission, Ravina Shamdasani, calling 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 euthanized in this way, the spokesperson emphasized.

All appeals and requests for a stay by Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, have been rejected by the Supreme Court. The highest court in the country, with a conservative majority, was seized of a final appeal by the convicted person on Thursday, but did not act on it.

In its written arguments to the Supreme Court, the State of Alabama even went so far as to present nitrogen hypoxia as perhaps the mode of #x27;most human execution ever invented.

The Alabama authorities missed three executions in a row in 2022, including that of Mr. Smith, said the director general of the specialized observatory Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Robin Maher.

They may feel more comfortable switching to a completely different mode of execution, even if it's completely experimental and has never been tested, she continued in an interview with AFP.

I'm still traumatized by the last time, Kenneth Eugene Smith said in an interview with NPR public radio in December, admitting to being absolutely terrified of reliving an attempted execution.

He was convicted of the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, 45, ordered by her husband, Charles Sennett, a heavily indebted and unfaithful pastor, to make it appear as a burglary gone wrong. /p>

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

Kenneth Smith was also sentenced to the death penalty for the first time, but the trial was overturned on appeal. During his second trial in 1996, 11 of the 12 jurors favored a life sentence.

But as at the trial of his accomplice, the judge had ignored the opinion of the jurors and sentenced him to the death penalty, a possibility existing at the time in a few states, but now abolished throughout the country. American territory.

In its annual report in December, the DPIC specified that most prisoners executed in 2023 in the United States would probably not be sentenced to died today, due to the consideration in particular of the mental health problems and trauma of the defendants or legislative changes to inflict the death penalty.

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

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