After losing last-minute appeals, a US prisoner will undergo his first nitrogen execution

After losing last-minute appeals, an Alabama death row convict is just hours away from being put to death by nitrogen gas, a first for the United States. Kenneth Eugene Smith’s attorneys claimed the penalty was cruel and unusual, but both the US Supreme Court and a lower appeals court have declined to strike it down. For a maximum of fifteen minutes, nitrogen will be injected into his body through a mask. In 1989, Smith, then fifty-eight, was found guilty of killing Elizabeth Sennett, the wife of a preacher, in a killing-for-hire. Alabama is set to be executed starting on Thursday.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Smith would be the first person executed by this manner in the United States and maybe the entire world. The prisoner has been on execution row since 1996. His attorneys informed the BBC on Wednesday night that they were submitting a new appeal to the country’s highest court in the hopes of obtaining a last-minute reprieve. Smith said in written responses to the BBC earlier this week that he felt like he was going through “torture” waiting to find out his destiny. However, the attempt was unsuccessful because the executioners could not open a vein in time for the state’s death warrant to expire at midnight.

Smith was one of two men found guilty on March 18, 1988, of killing 45-year-old Mrs. Sennett in a $1,000 (£790) killing-for-hire. Her death was prepared to resemble a break-in and burglary at home, after she was stabbed in the chest and neck and battered with a fireplace tool. Her spouse, a bankrupt minister, was the mastermind behind the plan to obtain insurance funds. With the detectives closing in, he committed suicide. In 2010, John Forrest Parker, Smith’s fellow hitman, was put to death.

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