(UnitedVoice.com) – Alabama is planning to start using a new execution method in its gas chamber. However, the United Nations has decided to get involved. International officials are condemning the state, calling the proposed execution “inhuman.”
For several years, US states that use lethal injection to execute criminals have been facing a problem: Drug companies are refusing to sell them the chemicals normally used to humanely kill offenders. States haven’t given in to this boycott, though. Instead, they’ve looked for new ways to administer the ultimate punishment.
Alabama has opted to try nitrogen gas, which should painlessly asphyxiate the condemned man. On January 25, convicted murderer Kenneth Eugene Smith is due to be executed for the 1988 contract killing of Elizabeth Sennett. He’s been on death row since 1996, and the state tried to execute him in 2022, but couldn’t connect the intravenous lines needed for a lethal injection. Smith himself then asked if he could be executed by nitrogen hypoxia instead, and on January 3, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) granted that request and set the execution date.
Nitrogen is a non-toxic gas — over three-quarters of the air we breathe is nitrogen — but it can’t support life. Under the proposed execution method, the condemned convict would be given pure nitrogen to breathe through a mask. Without oxygen, he would then lose consciousness and die.
So far, nobody has been executed by nitrogen hypoxia, but Oklahoma and Mississippi have authorized it as a death method along with Alabama. Now the UN has stepped in, with a public statement issued by a panel of experts. Four UN “special rapporteurs” claim there’s no evidence nitrogen hypoxia doesn’t cause “grave suffering” (although there’s also no evidence it does). The UN press release calls on “Federal and State authorities” to halt Smith’s execution and carry out a review of the execution method. Meanwhile, Smith’s legal team is also trying to block his death penalty. Governor Ivey has said she has no plan to grant the killer clemency.
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