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Chilling final words of Death Row inmate killed by controversial method never used before

Chilling final words of Death Row inmate killed by controversial method never used before

Kenneth Smith was killed with the controversial method of nitrogen hypoxia on 25 January.

Death row inmate Kenneth Smith made a chilling final statement before he was killed by a controversial method that has never been used before.

The 58-year-old was executed by nitrogen hypoxia at 8.25pm CST (02.25am GMT) at the Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama yesterday (25 January).

It marks the first time the method - which is only authorised by three states; Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi - has ever been used.

Smith, who was convicted of the murder-for-hire of Alamaba woman Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett in 1988, previously spoke of his fears about the execution following a botched attempt to put him to death using the lethal injection in November 2022.

He complained that this had left him with profound trauma, including PTSD, 'severe and ongoing physical and psychological pain', nightmares, hypervigilance and disassociation.

As the rescheduled date loomed nearer, he put his feelings down on paper and spoke of his concern that the same thing would happen again.

The killer said: "I am worried that we have told Alabama that these risks could happen - will happen - just like we warned them last year. And they will do nothing to prevent these dangers from happening."

After nitrogen gas was selected as a new method of execution, lawyers representing him claimed that it would violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects people against 'cruel and unusual' punishments.

The killer was executed using nitrogen hypoxia.
Alabama Department of Corrections

However, the US Supreme Court on Wednesday (24 January) declined to hear Smith's appeal and denied the death row inmate's request to halt the execution.

Smith's spiritual advisor, Rev Dr Jeff Hood, had previously said he would share the Eucharist with him before entering the chamber and anointing his head with oil until a mask was placed on his face and prayers began.

He also revealed that everyone who was going in the death chamber were putting their own lives at risk incase the nitrogen gas leaked from the mask.

Before the nitrogen was administered yesterday, Smith shared some final words and gestured lovingly to his family and those watching the moment through a glass window.

His final words were: "Tonight, Alabama caused humanity to take a step backward. I am leaving with love, peace and light - thank you for supporting me. I love all of you."

Smith then made an 'I love you' sign in sign language towards his family before the never-before-used execution method got underway.

Despite Alabama claiming that the nitrogen method was 'perhaps the most humane method of execution ever devised', eyewitness statements from reporters present in the death chamber suggested that this was not the case.

Smith said he was going out with 'love, peace and light'.

Marty Roney of the Montgomery Advertiser reported that at one point, "Smith writhed and convulsed on the gurney. He took deep breaths, his body shaking violently with his eyes rolling in the back of his head."

Roney went on: "Smith clenched his fists, his legs shook … He seemed to be gasping for air. The gurney shook several times."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, this use of nitrogen hypoxia is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and ethical questions have been raised on using the untested method of execution.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a form of execution where a person is deprived of oxygen until they are breathing only nitrogen gas, killing them via asphyxiation.

Already making up around 80 percent of the air we breathe, nitrogen is not lethal unless separated from oxygen.

The State of Alabama said in court filings that with the execution method they expect a person to lose consciousness within seconds and die within minutes, though a number of medical professionals have contested this claim.

Featured Image Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections/Getty Stock Images

Topics: Crime, News, US News, Death Row