Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death in Alabama using nitrogen gas for his involvement in a 1988 murder-for-hire scheme.

Journal Entry: Alabama Executes Kenneth Eugene Smith for 1988 Murder-for-Hire

The state of Alabama carried out the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith on Thursday for his involvement in the 1988 murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett. The execution, the first-ever using nitrogen gas, commenced at 7:56 p.m., concluding with Smith pronounced dead at 8:25 p.m.

Final Moments:
Smith, 58, delivered a final statement through a mask, expressing dismay at the state’s action: “Tonight, Alabama caused humanity to take a step backward.” He left with a message of love, peace, and gratitude for support.

Execution Details:
Witnesses observed Smith in his prison uniform, covered in a white sheet up to his chest, lying on a gurney. Strapped down in two places, he convulsed for two minutes after the flow of nitrogen began. The process included seven minutes of heavy breathing.

Murder-for-Hire Background:
Sennett’s husband, Rev. Charles Sennett, orchestrated the murder-for-hire plot involving Smith and others to collect insurance money. Parker was executed in 2010, Williams sentenced to life, and Charles Sennett died by suicide a week after his wife’s death.

Michael Sennett, Elizabeth’s son, forgave the perpetrators, stating that Parker and Smith had been incarcerated almost twice as long as he knew his mom. Smith, who survived a botched execution in 2022, spent his last day with family, eating a final meal of steak, hash browns, and eggs.

Legal Challenges:
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals arguing that the nitrogen gas method violated Eighth Amendment protections. Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern, stating, “The world is watching.” Smith’s spiritual advisor and he called for attention to the “moral apocalypse.”

Nitrogen Execution:
The Alabama Legislature approved nitrogen executions in 2018, with Smith being the first test case. Critics, including medical professionals, questioned the method’s humaneness. Mississippi and Oklahoma also adopted the method, but as of Thursday, neither had executed anyone using nitrogen.

Appeals and Controversy:
Smith did not originally choose nitrogen, but his 2022 preference was honored. Legal challenges included concerns about the mask preventing audible prayers and potential harms due to its novelty. The federal courts sided with the state, and the execution proceeded.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey stated, “At long last, Mr. Smith got what he asked for, and this case can finally be put to rest.” The execution raises ethical questions about the use of untested methods, leaving an indelible mark on the ongoing debate around capital punishment.

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