US: Kenneth Eugene set to face first ever 'nitrogen overdose' execution, UN says 'torture'

US: In first of its kind historic execution, an Alabama inmate named Kenneth Eugene is set to be executed through 'nitrogen overdose'. Here is all you need to know about this unusual execution.

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US: The US Supreme Court, along with a lower appeals court, has rejected pleas to halt the unprecedented execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith in Alabama. Smith's lawyers argue that the proposed method, pumping nitrogen gas through a mask, poses risks of choking on vomit, potentially constituting cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations has raised concerns, classifying such a method as potentially amounting to torture. With Alabama having a 30-hour window from Thursday at 0600 GMT for the execution, Smith's legal team continues to file appeals in a bid for a last-minute reprieve.

US: Challenges to an unprecedented method

Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted in 1989 for the murder of a preacher's wife, faces a distinctive execution method, marking the first-ever use of nitrogen gas in the United States and globally. Smith, who has been on death row since 1996, previously experienced a failed lethal injection attempt two years ago. Now, his lawyers argue that subjecting him to multiple execution attempts violates the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, safeguarding against "cruel and unusual" punishment.

US: A history of legal battles

Smith, one of the two men involved in the 1988 killing-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett, has a long history of legal battles. His co-conspirator, John Forrest Parker, was executed in 2010. Smith admitted his presence during the crime but denied direct involvement. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed reservations about the proposed execution method, emphasizing the potential for torture or inhumane treatment.

US: Legal appeals, rejections

Despite Smith's legal team lodging appeals at both the Supreme Court and the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the challenges have faced rejections. The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeal and denial to halt the execution came without public dissent. Smith's lawyers continue to assert the risks associated with the untested nitrogen gas method, highlighting potential dangers, including the risk of choking on vomit.

US: Controversy surrounding execution methods

Alabama's move to use nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative to lethal injections has sparked controversy. With difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs, several US states have explored alternative methods. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has defended the nitrogen gas approach as a potentially humane method, expecting rapid loss of consciousness and death within minutes.

US: Impact of previous execution failures

Alabama, known for having one of the highest per capita execution rates in the US, has faced challenges with lethal injections in recent years. Since 2018, the state has encountered three botched attempts where inmates survived. An internal review largely attributed these failures to the prisoners themselves.

As the legal battles continue, the potential execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith remains at the forefront of debates over humane methods and the constitutionality of unprecedented execution techniques.