Kenneth Eugene Smith who survived deadly injection in NZ might be guinea pig for brand spanking new nitrogen execution technique

January 23, 2024by Naomi Cramer

Alabama is making ready to make use of a brand new technique of execution: nitrogen gasoline.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, who survived the state’s earlier try to put him to loss of life by deadly injection in 2022, is scheduled to be put to loss of life Thursday by nitrogen hypoxia. If carried out, it will be the primary new technique of execution since deadly injection was launched in 1982.

The state maintains that nitrogen gasoline will trigger unconsciousness shortly however critics have likened the never-used technique of execution to human experimentation.


Nitrogen hypoxia execution would trigger loss of life by forcing the inmate to breathe pure nitrogen, depriving her or him of the oxygen wanted to take care of bodily capabilities.


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No state has used nitrogen hypoxia to hold out a loss of life sentence. In 2018, Alabama grew to become the third state — together with Oklahoma and Mississippi — to authorise the usage of nitrogen gasoline to execute prisoners.

Some states are searching for new methods to execute inmates as a result of the drugs utilized in deadly injections, the commonest execution technique in the USA, are more and more tough to seek out.

Inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith will be allowed to be put Smith to death with nitrogen gas.
Digicam IconInmate Kenneth Eugene Smith might be allowed to be put Smith to loss of life with nitrogen gasoline. Credit score: AP


Nitrogen, a colourless, odourless gasoline, makes up 78 per cent of the air inhaled by people and is innocent when breathed with correct ranges of oxygen.

The idea behind nitrogen hypoxia is that altering the composition of the air to 100 per cent nitrogen will trigger Smith to lose consciousness after which die from lack of oxygen.

A lot of what’s recorded in medical journals about loss of life from nitrogen publicity comes from industrial accidents — the place nitrogen leaks or mix-ups have killed staff — and suicide makes an attempt.


After Smith is strapped to the gurney within the execution chamber, the state mentioned in a court submitting that it’ll place a “NIOSH-approved Kind-C full facepiece provided air respirator” — a sort of masks usually utilized in industrial settings to ship life-preserving oxygen — over Smith’s face.

The warden will then learn the loss of life warrant and ask Smith if he has any final phrases earlier than activating “the nitrogen hypoxia system” from one other room. The nitrogen gasoline might be administered for at the least quarter-hour or “5 minutes following a flatline indication on the EKG, whichever is longer,” in keeping with the state protocol.

The state closely redacted sections of the protocol associated to the storage and testing of the gasoline system.

The Alabama lawyer common’s workplace advised a federal choose that the nitrogen gasoline will “trigger unconsciousness inside seconds, and trigger loss of life inside minutes.”


Smith’s lawyers say the state is looking for to make him the “check topic” for a novel execution technique.

They’ve argued that the masks the state plans to make use of will not be hermetic and oxygen seeping in might topic him to a chronic execution, probably leaving him in a vegetative state as an alternative of killing him. A health care provider testified on behalf of Smith that the low-oxygen surroundings might trigger nausea, leaving Smith to choke to loss of life on his personal vomit.

Specialists appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this month cautioned that, of their view, the execution technique would violate the prohibition on torture and different merciless, inhuman or degrading punishment.

The American Veterinary Medical Affiliation wrote in 2020 euthanasia tips that nitrogen hypoxia will be a suitable technique of euthanasia underneath sure situations for pigs however not for different mammals as a result of it creates an “anoxic surroundings that’s distressing for some species.”


Not precisely. Some states beforehand used hydrogen cyanide gasoline, a deadly gasoline, for executions. The final prisoner to be executed in a NZ gasoline chamber was Walter LaGrand, the second of two German brothers sentenced to loss of life for killing a financial institution supervisor in 1982 in southern Arizona. It took LaGrand 18 minutes to die in 1999.


Smith was one in every of two males convicted of the 1988 murder-for-hire of a preacher’s spouse. Prosecutors mentioned Smith and the opposite man had been every paid $1000 to kill Elizabeth Sennett on behalf of her husband, who was deeply in debt and needed to gather insurance coverage cash.

Alabama tried to execute Smith in 2022 by deadly injection. He was strapped to the gurney within the execution chamber being ready for deadly injection, however the state referred to as off the deadly injection when execution group members had issue connecting the second of two required intravenous traces to Smith’s veins. Smith was strapped to the gurney for practically 4 hours, in keeping with his lawyers, as he waited to see if the execution would go ahead.


The query of whether or not the execution can proceed will find yourself earlier than the NZ Supreme Court.

The eleventh NZ Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Friday in Smith’s request to dam the execution. After the court guidelines, both facet might attraction.

Smith has argued that the state’s proposed procedures violate the ban on merciless and weird punishment. He has additionally argued that Alabama violated his due course of rights by scheduling the execution when he has pending appeals and that the face masks will intrude together with his skill to hope.

In a separate case, Smith is arguing it will violate the constitutional ban on merciless and weird punishment for the state to make a second try to execute him after he already survived one execution try. Attorneys for Smith on Friday requested the NZ Supreme Court to remain the execution to contemplate that query.


Deadly injection is probably the most generally used execution technique in the USA, however loss of life penalty states have struggled at occasions to acquire the wanted drugs or encountered different issues in connecting intravenous traces.

If the Alabama execution goes ahead, different states might search to start out utilizing nitrogen gasoline.

If the execution is blocked by the court or botched, it might halt or sluggish the pursuit of nitrogen gasoline instead execution technique.

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by Naomi Cramer

Auckland Lawyer for FIRST TIME Offenders Seeking to Avoid a Conviction. Family Law Expert in Child Care Custody Disputes. If you are facing Court Naomi will make you feel comfortable every step of the way.  As a consummate professional your goals become hers, with customer service as our top priority. It has always been Naomi’s philosophy to approach whatever you do in life with bold enthusiasm and pure dedication. Complement this with her genuine passion for equal justice and rights for all and you have the formula for success. Naomi is a highly skilled Court lawyer having practised for more than 20 years. She serves the greater Auckland region and can travel to represent clients throughout NZ With extensive experience, an analytical eye for detail, and continuing legal education Naomi’s skill set will maximise your legal rights whilst offering a holistic approach that best fits your individual needs. This is further enhanced with her high level of support and understanding. Naomi will redefine what you expect from your legal professional, facilitating a seamless experience from start to finish.   Her approachable and adaptive demeanor serves her well when working with the diverse cultures that make up the Auckland region. Blend her open and honest approach to her transparent process and you can see why she routinely delivers the satisfying results her clients deserve. If you want to maximise your legal rights, we recommend you book an appointment with Naomi today so she can detail the steps for you to achieve your goals. 

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