Nitrogen Hypoxia: Alabama to Execute Prisoners with Unusual New Method”
Alabama is seeking to become the first state to execute a prisoner using a method that has never been used before. The state plans to put death row inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith to death by nitrogen hypoxia, which involves forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen. This deprives them of oxygen and causes them to die.
Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air we breathe, and it is harmless when inhaled with oxygen. However, when it is inhaled without oxygen, it can quickly cause unconsciousness and death. Proponents of nitrogen hypoxia argue that it is a painless way to die, while opponents say that it is cruel and unusual punishment.
The Alabama attorney general’s office has asked the state Supreme Court to set an execution date for Smith. If the court grants the request, Smith would be the first person in the world to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia.
Alabama authorized it as an execution method in 2018 because there was a shortage of drugs used to carry out lethal injections. However, the state has not used nitrogen hypoxia to carry out a death sentence yet. Oklahoma and Mississippi have also authorized nitrogen hypoxia, but they have not used it either.
The Equal Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group that has worked on death penalty issues, is concerned about Alabama’s plan to use nitrogen hypoxia. The group says that Alabama has a history of “failed and flawed executions and execution attempts” and that “experimenting with a never before used method is a terrible idea.”
The Equal Justice Initiative also pointed out that no state in the country has executed a person using it. The group said that Alabama is not in a position to experiment with a completely unproven and unused method for executing someone.
In 2018, due to a scarcity of the drugs needed for lethal injections, Alabama approved the use of nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative method of execution. However, the state did not employ this method for carrying out death sentences until now. Similarly, Oklahoma and Mississippi also sanctioned nitrogen hypoxia but have not put it into practice. The revelation that Alabama intends to utilize it, is anticipated to initiate a fresh round of legal disputes concerning the constitutionality of this approach.
The Equal Justice Initiative, a legal organization dedicated to addressing death penalty concerns, remarked that Alabama has a track record of unsuccessful and problematic executions and experimentation with untested methods is ill-advised. Angie Setzer, a senior attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative, emphasized that no other state in the nation has executed anyone using nitrogen hypoxia, and Alabama should not be attempting an unproven and untried execution method.
Last year, Alabama’s attempt to execute an inmate named Smith via lethal injection was aborted due to difficulties in establishing an IV. This was the state’s second such incident within two months, and the third since 2018, where they were unable to carry out an execution. Following this, Governor Kay Ivey suspended executions for an internal review of lethal injection procedures, which were subsequently resumed.
Smith was one of the individuals convicted for the 1988 murder-for-hire of a preacher’s wife. The Attorney General of Alabama argued that it is time to carry out the death sentence.
The Attorney General’s office had been working for several years on developing the nitrogen hypoxia execution method but had revealed very little about its plans. The specifics of how the execution would be conducted were not described in the court filing from the attorney general. Last month, Corrections Commissioner John Hamm indicated that a protocol for the procedure was nearly finalized.
Several Alabama inmates, including Smith, who are facing execution by lethal injection, have asserted that they should be allowed to opt for death by nitrogen hypoxia. The attorney representing Smith, Robert Grass, declined to comment on the matter.
In 1988, Elizabeth Sennett, the wife of a preacher, was found deceased in her Colbert County home in Alabama. Prosecutors contended that Smith was one of the two men who were paid to kill her on behalf of her husband, who was financially strained and sought to benefit from insurance. The revelation of the individuals behind the murder had a profound impact on the local community in northern Alabama. The other man convicted in the crime was executed in 2010. Charles Sennett, the victim’s husband and a Church of Christ pastor, took his own life when he became a suspect in the investigation, according to court documents.
How is Nitogen Hypoxia used
Nitrogen hypoxia is a method of execution that involves forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen. This deprives them of oxygen and causes them to die. Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air we breathe, and it is harmless when inhaled with oxygen. However, when it is inhaled without oxygen, it can quickly cause unconsciousness and death.
The execution would likely be carried out in a similar way to lethal injection. The inmate would be strapped to a gurney and a hood would be placed over their head. A mask or tube would then be inserted into the hood and connected to a tank of nitrogen. The nitrogen would then be pumped into the mask or tube, and the inmate would begin to breathe it in.
The inmate would likely lose consciousness within seconds of beginning to breathe in the nitrogen. Death would then follow within minutes.
Some experts have raised concerns that it could cause feelings of panic or anxiety in the inmate, and that it could be difficult to ensure that the inmate is unconscious before they die. However, proponents of nitrogen hypoxia argue that these concerns are unfounded and that nitrogen hypoxia is a more humane way to die than lethal injection.
The use of nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method is controversial, and there are legal challenges pending in several states.
Arguments in favor of nitrogen hypoxia
- Proponents of nitrogen hypoxia argue that it is a more humane way to die than lethal injection. They say that nitrogen hypoxia causes unconsciousness and death quickly, without causing any pain or suffering.
- They also argue that nitrogen hypoxia is more reliable than lethal injection. Lethal injection has been criticized for being unreliable, with some executions taking hours to complete and others resulting in the inmate experiencing excruciating pain.
Arguments against nitrogen hypoxia
- Opponents of nitrogen hypoxia argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment. They say that it is not humane to deprive someone of oxygen and cause them to die.
- They also argue that nitrogen hypoxia is not reliable. They say that it is possible that the inmate would not lose consciousness quickly enough and would experience pain and suffering.
- There are legal challenges pending in several states over the use of nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method. These challenges argue that nitrogen hypoxia is cruel and unusual punishment and that it is not authorized by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The controversy over the use of nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method is likely to continue for some time. There are strong arguments on both sides of the issue, and it is unclear how the courts will ultimately rule on the matter.