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Court sides with AG Marshall – inmate set for first nitrogen execution in U.S.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in a 6-2 decision that the state is allowed to execute an inmate with nitrogen gas, which has never been used before to carry out an execution in the United States.

“Elizabeth Sennett’s family has waited an unconscionable 35 years to see justice served,” Alabama Attorney General said in a statement. “Today, the Alabama Supreme Court cleared the way for Kenneth Eugene Smith to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia. Though the wait has been far too long, I am grateful that our capital litigators have nearly gotten this case to the finish line.”

Marshall requested the execution warrant for Kenneth Eugene Smith, who was one of two men convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire killing of Elizabeth Sennett in Colbert County.

The court order did not specify the execution method, but Marshall said in filings with the court that the state plans to use nitrogen to put Smith to death.

The case caused some controversy last year after the state was unsuccessful in putting Smith to death by lethal injection. The Alabama Department of Corrections was forced to call off the execution when the team was unable to get the two intravenous lines connected to him.

Execution by nitrogen hypoxia is when the person is forced to breathe only nitrogen, which deprives that person of oxygen eventually resulting in the person’s death.

Smith’s lawyers argued against the state using nitrogen gas for his execution.

“The state seeks to make Mr. Smith the test subject for the first ever attempted execution by an untested and only recently released protocol for executing condemned people by the novel method of nitrogen hypoxia,” Smith’s attorneys said.

Governor Ivey is now in charge in setting the new date of Smith’s execution.

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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