Alabama wants to be the first state to execute an inmate with nitrogen hypoxia

State Attorney General Steve Marshall has asked for this method to be applied to a man convicted of capital murder for his involvement in killing a woman 35 years ago.

Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a motion asking the Alabama Supreme Court to set a date to execute Kenneth Smith with nitrogen hypoxia. Smith was convicted of capital murder for his involvement in killing a woman 35 years ago. The procedure, which involves inhaling pure nitrogen, is currently approved in three states, although it has yet to be implemented.

Motion to the Alabama Supreme Court

In a press release, Marshall claimed that "It is a travesty that Kenneth Smith has been able to avoid his death sentence for nearly 35 years after being convicted of the heinous murder-for-hire slaying of an innocent woman, Elizabeth Sennett." The statement also announces that Marshall "filed a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court seeking an execution date for Kenneth Eugene Smith by means of nitrogen hypoxia."

In the motion, Marshall claims that since Smith has already exhausted his direct appeal and postconviction remedies. He states that it is time to carry out his execution. Alabama already attempted to execute Smith by lethal injection last year, but the execution had to be postponed because an intravenous line couldn't be inserted into the inmate at the time. It was the second case in less than two months, so Governor Kay Ivey called for a pause in executions while the state reviewed the procedure. They resumed last month.


Smith requested to be executed with nitrogen hypoxia in what was seen as an attempt to postpone his execution date. Proponents of this execution method claim it would be a painless process. However, opponents argue that it is a form of human experimentation. Angie Setzer from the Equal Justice Initiative told AP that Alabama has a history of problems with prisoner executions: "No state in the country has executed a person using nitrogen hypoxia and Alabama is not in a position to experiment with a completely unproven and unused method for executing someone."

Kenneth Smith was sentenced to death for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett in 1988. Smith admitted after being arrested that he agreed to kill Reverend Charles Sennet’s wife in exchange for about $1000.