MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the path for the state to execute an inmate using nitrogen gas for the first time.
Alabama State Attorney General Steve Marshall sought and received an execution warrant for Kenneth Eugene Smith. It was granted in a 6-2 decision by the state’s highest court. The exact date of the execution will be set later by Gov. Kay Ivey, the Associated Press reported.
Although the ruling moves the state closer to becoming the first to execute a condemned inmate with nitrogen gas, there is likely to be another legal challenge on the novel manner of execution.
Oklahoma and Mississippi have already been cleared to use nitrogen hypoxia as a form of execution, although no state has yet done so. Alabama is now the third as each state moves closer to its use.
Smith was one of two men convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire homicide of Elizabeth Sennett in Colbert County, Alabama.
“Elizabeth Sennett’s family has waited an unconscionable 35 years to see justice served. Today, the Alabama Supreme Court cleared the way for Kenneth Eugene Smith to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia,” Alabama AG Marshall wrote. “Though the wait has been far too long, I am grateful that our capital litigators have nearly gotten this case to the finish line.”
Smith was one of two men who were each paid $1,000 to kill Sennett on behalf of her husband, who was deeply in debt and hoped to collect insurance money, prosecutors said.
The murder as well as the revelations over who initiated it rocked the small Alabama community. Sennett’s husband took his own life week later. The second suspect convicted in the slaying was executed in 2010, Fox News Digital reported.
The Alabama Department of Corrections postponed the execution of Smith in 2022 when personnel responsible for connecting two intravenous lines to his body for lethal injection were unable to do so.