Alabama could carry out execution by nitrogen hypoxia for first time

For the first time, a convicted inmate in the U.S. state of Alabama could be executed by means of so-called nitrogen hypoxia. This involves inhaling pure nitrogen, which ultimately leads to death. The execution method is approved in several states but is controversial.

Kenneth Eugene Smith was sentenced to death in 1989 along with another man for the murder-for-hire of a woman. Smith was finally scheduled to be executed last November after about 33 years in prison. But the execution failed, prompting the governor in charge to issue a stay of execution.

A few days ago, the Alabama Attorney General’s office filed a new execution date for the 58-year-old Smith with the state Supreme Court.

The nitrogen execution method has been an alternative execution method in Alabama since 2018. This is because there has been a shortage of the appropriate drugs for lethal injection for years.

Nitrogen hypoxia is also allowed as an alternative in the states of Oklahoma and Mississippi. So far, however, it has not been used in the United States. Proponents see it as a painless method of execution, but critics see it as human experimentation.

Meanwhile, Smith, who has been sentenced to death, himself is calling for him to be executed using nitrogen hypoxia. He eventually filed a lawsuit against the execution method after problems with the introduction of the lethal injection last year.

His lawyers accused authorities of subjecting him to “hours of torture” and a “mental anguish of a mock execution” during his attempted execution.

In addition to Smith, several other death-row inmates in Alabama have spoken out against lethal injection, calling instead for nitrogen hypoxia to be allowed.