Quick Takes

Gov. Kay Ivey sets January date for nitrogen execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith

By: - November 8, 2023 4:50 pm
A headshot of an inmate.

A profile photo of Kenneth Eugene Smith. (Alabama Department of Corrections)

Gov. Kay Ivey Wednesday set a January execution date for Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted of the 1988 murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett.

Ivey set an execution window starting at midnight on Jan. 25, 2024 and running until 6 am on January 26, 2024.

It could be the first execution carried out through nitrogen suffocation, a method never used on human beings.

The Alabama Supreme Court earlier this month allowed the state to move forward with the new method. Alabama would be the first state to use that method of execution in the nation’s history, a method professional veterinary associations discourage in the euthanasia of  animals.

Smith has an appeal pending with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming that attempting to execute him a second time violates his constitutional rights.

Multiple civil rights groups have criticized the decision to have Smith executed by nitrogen hypoxia, with the ACLU of Alabama stating a week ago that “Governor Ivey and Attorney General Marshall have a responsibility to stop the execution of Mr. Smith.”

A jury convicted Smith of Sennett’s murder  in 1996 and sentenced him to life without parole. However, the judge in the case overrode the jury’s verdict, sentencing Smith to death instead.

The state abolished judicial override back in 2017, the last state to do so, but did not make the rule retroactive to apply to those who were already on death row, including Smith.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision allowing Smith to choose nitrogen hypoxia as the method of his execution.

This is the second time that Alabama will try to execute Smith. In 2022, the state tried, and failed, to execute Smith through lethal injection.

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Ralph Chapoco
Ralph Chapoco

Ralph Chapoco covers state politics as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. His main responsibility is the criminal justice system in Alabama.