Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death by means of nitrogen gas due to his involvement in a murder-for-hire scheme in the year 1988

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Kenneth Eugene Smith, aged 58, was executed in Alabama for his involvement in the murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett in 1988. This execution marked the first time that nitrogen gas was used as the method of execution. The process began at 7:56 p.m. and Smith was pronounced dead at 8:25 p.m., as confirmed by the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

During his final statement, Smith expressed his disappointment with Alabama’s decision, stating that it represented a setback for humanity. He conveyed his love, peace, and gratitude to those who supported him. However, his words were muffled due to the mask he was wearing.

Media witnesses, including a reporter from Alabama Reflector, observed Smith dressed in his prison uniform and covered with a white sheet up to his chest. He lay on a gurney with a slight incline, his arms extended outward. Smith was securely restrained with straps around his stomach and upper chest.

After the reading of the death warrant and the performance of last rites by Reverend Jeff Hood, Smith’s spiritual advisor, a staff member closed a vent on the mask, initiating the flow of nitrogen gas. Smith experienced convulsions for two minutes, followed by seven minutes of heavy breathing as he took deep breaths.

John Hamm, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, stated that Smith appeared to be holding his breath for as long as possible, which was an expected side effect of nitrogen hypoxia. He emphasized that there was nothing unusual or unexpected during the execution.

However, Hood, along with Smith’s friends and family, disputed this account during a press conference. They claimed that Smith did not lose consciousness within a few seconds or even 30 seconds. Instead, they witnessed him struggling for his life for several minutes, exhibiting back-and-forth movements and producing saliva and other substances from his mask.

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