(RightIsRight.co) – Marking a significant decision in the capital punishment methods available to executioners, Alabama’s highest court ruled that the state is allowed to proceed with an execution using nitrogen gas.
The Alabama Supreme Court, composed entirely of Republican justices, voted 6-2 to issue an execution warrant for Kenneth Eugene Smith, responding affirmatively to the state attorney general’s appeal.
Previously, Smith’s execution by lethal injection was aborted when the execution team failed to establish the required intravenous lines. This development brings Alabama to the brink of being the first state to execute a prisoner by nitrogen gas, a method that has never been used before and is currently under legal scrutiny.
The proposed execution method, authorized in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, involves forcing the inmate to inhale pure nitrogen, causing asphyxiation by depriving him of the oxygen necessary for life.
Using nitrogen gas has sparked a debate over its humanity and ethical implications, with critics likening this untested method to human experimentation and supporters suggesting it could be a painless alternative.
Smith has been on death row for his role in the 1988 murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett in Colbert County, Alabama. The case has lingered for over three decades.
Smith’s defense counsel has consistently opposed the push for execution, especially by nitrogen gas, emphasizing the experimental nature of the method and the lack of disclosure regarding the execution protocol. The attorneys expressed their disappointment in the court’s decision and resolved to continue advocating for Smith’s legal rights.
The defense team also highlighted the dissenting opinions within the court. It paralleled the reluctance of the jury members, eleven of whom did not endorse the death penalty for Smith in his trial. In a notable disagreement with the majority, Chief Justice Tom Parker and Justice Greg Cook cast dissenting votes.
Smith’s case is further complicated by its backstory, where he and another man were reportedly paid by Elizabeth Sennett’s husband, a pastor seeking insurance money to alleviate his debts, to commit the crime. The other convicted individual was executed in 2010, while Sennett’s husband committed suicide a week after the murder, leaving a community shaken by the heinous crime.