Alabama wants to try a new execution method: Nitrogen hypoxia

Montgomery, Alabama - Alabama's attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to set a date to execute a person on death row via nitrogen hypoxia for the first time.

Alabama wants to kill a person on death row by forcing him to breathe nitrogen, in what would be a first in the US.
Alabama wants to kill a person on death row by forcing him to breathe nitrogen, in what would be a first in the US.  © IMAGO / agefotostock

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has issued a filing requesting a date for the execution of 58-year-old Kenneth Eugene Smith, originally slated to take place on November 17, 2022, by nitrogen hypoxia, NPR reported.

Nitrogen hypoxia is an untested method that involves forcing a person to breathe pure nitrogen until they die.

Smith had opposed being killed by lethal injection and petitioned the court to be allowed to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia.

FBI reportedly opens criminal probe into Baltimore bridge collapse
Crime FBI reportedly opens criminal probe into Baltimore bridge collapse

Last November, the US Supreme Court overruled a stay of execution and granted the state the ability to use lethal injection against Smith, but officers had trouble inserting the IV and could not carry out the killing before the death warrant expired. The attempt was Alabama's third botched execution since 2018, leading to a temporary hold on lethal injections that ended with the killing of James Barber in July.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Smith's request for nitrogen hypoxia in May.

Smith issued death sentence by judge in 1996

Smith was found guilty in a 1988 murder-for-hire case in which an Alabama pastor named Charles Sennett reportedly paid him and another man, John Forrest Parker, to kill his wife. Prosecutors said Smith and Parker were each supposed to receive $1,000 for the crime.

One year later, Smith was convicted of capital murder, but his sentence was appealed in 1992. A second trial in 1996 saw a jury find Smith guilty once again with a sentence of life in prison without parole. A judge then overruled the decision and issued the death penalty.

Oklahoma and Mississippi have authorized executions via nitrogen hypoxia, but no US state has ever implemented the method.

Cover photo: IMAGO / agefotostock

More on Justice: