(UnitedVoice.com) – Obtaining lethal injection drugs has been very hard for states that have had the death penalty in place over the last decade or so. Alabama had multiple botched executions before it decided to make a change. The state announced it would begin gassing its death row inmates.
The state carried out its first execution using gas recently, and critics claim it went very badly. The inmate’s wife reportedly screamed during the execution. The United Nations and European Union have now spoken out against the process.
On January 25, Alabama executed Kenneth Eugene Smith for stabbing Elizabeth Sennett to death for $1,000 in 1988. Sennett’s husband, Charles Sennett, a preacher, hired the hitman. He committed suicide a week later. Smith was found guilty of the murder-for-hire plot and sentenced to death.
The execution began at 7:53 p.m. Central Time. About two minutes later, the convicted killer gave his final words, telling those watching that the state “caused humanity to take a step backwards” by carrying out his death sentence. Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said Smith died at 8:25 p.m. after having a mask put over his face that administered pure nitrogen.
Smith’s wife, Deanna, cried out during the execution. Jeff Hood, the family’s spiritual adviser, told the New York Post that the execution took 22 minutes. That was way longer than authorities told the family it would take, according to Hood. He said they did not see Smith “go unconscious in 30 seconds.”
Witnesses said Smith was conscious for up to 10 minutes as he inhaled the gas and slowly suffocated to death. The prisoner thrashed against his restraints, and Hood said he ripped “his head forward over and over and over again.”
Smith had previously survived a botched execution in the state. In 2022, the executioner repeatedly poked him with needles, while trying to find a good vein to administer a lethal cocktail of drugs before giving up after more than an hour. His was the third execution that went wrong. Alan Eugene Miller also had his execution called off. Before him, Joe Nathan James Jr. took more than three hours to die after the executioner repeatedly tried to find a vein before allegedly attempting to cut his arm open and visually find one.
The bad executions led to a temporary prohibition in the state until authorities reassessed them. That’s when they decided to gas the inmates to death.
UN, EU Speak Out
The Associated Press reported that during a UN briefing in Geneva after the execution, UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani called on the US to “bring an end to the death penalty,” saying it “doesn’t belong in the 21st Century.” She repeated claims that Smith was “writhing and clearly suffering” during the procedure and said the Human Rights Chief Volker Türk had sent Alabama officials a letter about the execution.
The EU’s diplomatic service also issued a statement about the execution, saying that using gas to kill people is “a particularly cruel and unusual punishment.” He called on US states to issue moratoriums on execution and abolish it completely.
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