Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was executed by nitrogen hypoxia in an Alabama prison. For the first time, nitrogen is used in the execution of the death penalty. The United States Supreme Court, after the appeals court, rejected the final appeal and attempt to block what the prisoner's lawyers called an “unusual and cruel” sentence.
Smith's death occurred on January 25 at 8:25 p.m. According to authorities, death occurred 15 minutes after inhaling the nitrogen. As CNN reported, the inmate released a statement before his death: “Tonight, Alabama forced humanity to take a step back. I leave with a feeling of love, in peace and in light. Thank you for supporting me, I love everyone.”
Some media representatives were present at the execution. According to CNN, Smith appeared to be conscious “several minutes after the execution began.” Within two minutes of inhaling the nitrogen, he was “trembling and writhing on a stretcher.” He then took deep breaths for several minutes before the movement slowed “until breathing was no longer noticeable.”
John Hamm, chief of the Alabama Department of Corrections, reports that the inmate made “some involuntary movements” and his breathing became “labored”: “Given the side effects we have seen and studied with nitrogen hypoxia, this was all to be expected. So nothing out of the ordinary compared to what we expected.