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Death Row Killer Set To Be First Inmate Ever Executed By Controversial New Method

Death row killer Kenneth Eugene Smith is set to be the first-ever inmate to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia.
Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections & Alamy

A death row killer is set to be the first-ever inmate to be executed with a controversial new method.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was convicted of capital murder over Elizabeth Sennett’s death in 1988.

He was part of a two-person team hired to kill the 45-year-old.

The other participant convicted in the slaying, John Forrest Parker, was executed by lethal injection in 2010, as per

Since his conviction, Smith had remained on death row – until now.

This week, a federal judge has approved Alabama’s use of a controversial new execution method – with Smith set to be the first prisoner to be killed in this way…

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Lethal injection has been the most popular execution method for death row prisoners in the United States.

However, the method has been facing logistic issues in recent years, and many states have begun seeking an alternative.

And now, authorities in Alabama have approved one such method – and are set to use it for the very first time before the end of the month.

Smith is set to be the first prisoner executed using this divisive new method.

He was one of two men paid to kill Elizabeth Sennett by her husband back in 1988.

Sennett’s husband was struggling with debt and wanted to use his wife’s life insurance money to get out, as per Courthouse News.

Lethal injection
Lethal injection has been the most popular execution method for death row prisoners in the US. Credit: Alamy

However, the case was solved, with both Smith and his co-conspirator Forrest Parker sentenced to death.

The new method used to execute prisoners is called nitrogen hypoxia.

It uses nitrogen gas to deprive the body of oxygen, leading a prisoner to pass out, and eventually die.

Nitrogen hypoxia as a means of execution reportedly aims to deal with shortages of the drugs needed for lethal injections.

The method has been approved in three states but has yet to have been used to execute an inmate.

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Although Smith has filed a lawsuit stating his preference for nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, the United Nations has called it a possible ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment’, as per The Independent.

The American Veterinary Medical Association described euthanasia by nitrogen hypoxia for most mammals as ‘unacceptable’, claiming that it can be ‘distressing for some species’.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Smith’s attorney, Robert Grass, has stated his desire to appeal the decision to implement nitrogen hypoxia.

However, US District Judge R. Austin Huffaker has argued in favour of the method.

“On this record, Smith has not shown, and the court cannot conclude, the protocol inflicts both cruel and unusual punishment rendering it constitutionally infirm under the prevailing legal framework,” Judge Huffaker said, as per The Washington Post.

In a statement, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall added: “With today’s order, Alabama is an important step closer to holding Kenneth Smith accountable for the heinous murder-for-hire slaying of an innocent woman, Elizabeth Sennett.

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Written by Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a content editor at IGV who specialises in trending, lifestyle and entertainment news. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a degree in English Literature. Annie has previously worked with organisations such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Harvard University, the Pulitzer Prize and 22 Words.