On Thursday, January 25, the U.S. state of Alabama executed a condemned man by nitrogen inhalation - a world first.
Steph Deschamps / January 27, 2024
This is a world first. On Thursday January 25, a death row inmate was executed by nitrogen inhalation in the US state of Alabama. This unprecedented method had been denounced by the UN, which likened the procedure to a form of "torture ».
Kenneth Eugene Smith, finally sentenced to death in 1996 for the murder of a woman ordered by her husband, died at Atmore Penitentiary at 8:25 pm. This was 29 minutes after the start of the execution, the Alabama Attorney General announced in a press release.
"Justice has been served. Tonight, Kenneth Smith was put to death for the despicable act he committed 35 years ago," said Steve Marshall, asserting that Alabama had "accomplished something historic. »
According to a journalist who witnessed the execution, Kenneth Smith's last words were: "Tonight, Alabama has taken humanity one step backwards (...) I leave with love, peace and light (...) Thank you for supporting me. I love you all.
By Thursday morning, he had eaten a last meal consisting of steak, potato pancakes and eggs, according to the prison administration. Once the execution began, Kenneth Eugene Smith "began writhing and struggling for approximately two to four minutes, followed by about five minutes of noisy breathing", local media outlet AL.com reported, relying on witnesses. A previous attempt by lethal injection, on November 17, 2022, had been cancelled in extremis, as the intravenous drips to administer Kenneth Eugene Smith's lethal solution could not be set up within the legally allotted time, although he remained restrained for several hours.
The condemned man appears to have "held his breath as long as he could", Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm told reporters. This is the first execution of the year in the USA, where 24 were carried out in 2023, all by lethal injection. This is the first time in over 40 years that a novel method of execution has been used in this country.