On Tuesday morning, Kenneth Smith will likely be moved inside the Holman correctional facility in Alabama to the “loss of life cell”, the bluntly named holding unit the place condemned prisoners are positioned two days earlier than their appointed execution.

Smith is aware of the cell properly. He is aware of its dimensions and the texture of the place. He is aware of that it sits solely about 20 ft from the loss of life chamber the place, barring a last-minute reprieve, he will likely be escorted in handcuffs and leg irons on Thursday earlier than being strapped to a gurney to await his destiny.

Associated: Alarm as Alabama man to be executed via gas method rejected by veterinarians

He is aware of as a result of he has been contained in the loss of life cell earlier than. In November 2022, Alabama’s division of corrections put him there as they ready to execute him by deadly injection.

From inside that cell, he mentioned his goodbyes to his mom and his grandson. He had his final meal. Then he was taken to the loss of life chamber the place he spent 4 hours on the gurney as jail officers tried unsuccessfully to discover a vein.

He was suspended the other way up for a number of minutes as officers labored frantically to safe an IV line. By the point officers admitted defeat and known as off the execution, his physique was riddled with puncture holes.

Within the course of, Smith was granted entry to an exceptionally elite but profoundly undesirable membership with a membership of simply two – Individuals who can describe what it’s prefer to survive an execution.

Now, simply 14 months later, he finds himself about to be put again within the loss of life cell, about to undergo all of it once more. Besides this time the protocol is totally different.

Smith, 58, is dealing with execution by an untested technique that has by no means earlier than been utilized in capital punishment within the US. It’s a method that has been rejected on ethical grounds by veterinarians for the euthanasia of most animals apart from pigs: loss of life by nitrogen gasoline.

This week, Smith contacted the Guardian from Holman jail and spent his allotted quarter-hour for outdoor telephone calls describing the surreal place during which he now finds himself. He’s an execution survivor who’s about to undergo execution procedures a second time, by a wholly untried technique.

Is he ready in himself for his imminent return to the loss of life cell underneath these circumstances?

“I’m not prepared for that. Not in no form of means. I’m simply not prepared, brother,” he mentioned.

Within the wake of Smith’s failed execution, he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is being prescribed a cocktail of medicines together with medication to regulate migraines. His jail psychiatrist has recorded that he’s affected by insomnia, nervousness and melancholy – signs typically related to extreme trauma.

He informed the Guardian that he was unable to sleep due to frequent nightmares and the “what-if video games you play in the course of the night time”. Following the primary execution try, he mentioned, he had a recurring nightmare of being escorted again into the loss of life chamber.

“All I needed to do was stroll into the room within the dream for it to be overwhelming. I used to be completely terrified,” he mentioned. “It saved developing.”

Since he was given a second execution date for 25 January, he has had an entire recent spherical of nightmares.

“I dream that they’re coming to get me,” he mentioned.

As his second brush with the execution chamber attracts shut, he can really feel his bodily and psychological state deteriorate. He mentioned he’s “sick in his abdomen”, and finds himself retching most days. The nurse within the infirmary has put it all the way down to stress.

Smith has an uncommon means of conveying the trauma-upon-trauma to which he’s being subjected.

“They haven’t given me an opportunity to heal,” he mentioned. “I’m nonetheless affected by the primary execution and now we’re doing this once more. They received’t let me even have post-traumatic stress dysfunction – , that is ongoing stress dysfunction.”

Smith requested the Guardian to think about what would occur if a sufferer of abuse have been pressured by their abuser straight again into the hostile surroundings that initially traumatized them.

“An individual who did that will in all probability be seen as a monster,” he mentioned. “However when the federal government does it, , that’s one thing else.”


On 18 March 1988, a pastor’s spouse in Colbert county, Alabama, Elizabeth Sennett, was stabbed to loss of life in her residence. Every week later her husband, Charles Sennett, a minister within the Church of Christ, killed himself after detectives started to concentrate on the truth that he had been having an affair, was deep in debt, and had taken out a life insurance coverage coverage on his spouse.

Smith was certainly one of two individuals employed by an middleman for the homicide, every paid $1,000. At trial, Smith admitted to having agreed to tough up Elizabeth Sennett however denied desiring to kill her.

The jury voted by 11 to 1 to offer him a life sentence, however they have been overruled by the decide who despatched him to loss of life row.

How does he now look again on his crime, now that he’s solely days away from a second tried execution.

“Want I had completed issues otherwise,” he mentioned. “One second, one second in a person’s life. And that’s been the one incident – I’ve not had any incident with officers, not a single struggle with inmates, in 35 years. Violence is just not who I’m.”

But many individuals in Alabama, and throughout the US, imagine that due to what he did he deserves all of the punishment coming to him. What does he say to them?

“I’ve been in jail for 35 years, how have I not been punished? Thirty-five years,” he mentioned. “I’ve not gone unpunished for 35 years. I’ve suffered doing this. So has my household.”


The brand new technique by which Alabama intends to kill Smith on Thursday is called nitrogen hypoxia. It entails forcing the prisoner to breathe pure nitrogen, a gasoline that naturally exists in air, at such excessive concentrations that it causes oxygen deprivation and eventual loss of life.

The thought was initially adopted by Oklahoma, one other lively loss of life penalty state, in 2015. The scheme was concocted, the Marshall Project found, by a prison justice professor with no medical or scientific coaching whose major declare to experience was as a former prosecutor within the western Pacific Ocean islands of Palau – one of many smallest nations on this planet, inhabitants 18,000.

Having been by 4 hours of an tried judicial killing by deadly injection, Smith is now trying into the unknown. Requested what he fears most about presumably being administered nitrogen gasoline within the first execution of its kind, Smith at first made a generic argument.

“I worry that will probably be profitable, and you should have a nitrogen system coming to your state very quickly. That’s what I’m nervous about.”

Mercy actually doesn’t exist on this nation in terms of tough conditions like mine

Smith has a degree. Although it has by no means been carried out, execution by nitrogen is on the books in Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma, and different states including Louisiana are contemplating it.

However that’s a relatively rarified worry for somebody so near a return to the loss of life chamber. Doesn’t he have private fears?

“I strive not to consider it. I strive to not learn an excessive amount of,” he mentioned.

Then he added: “Throwing up in that masks. As a result of if I do, brother, no person’s gonna assist me. I’m gonna drown alone vomit, and my spouse should sit there and watch.”

There was plenty of dialogue in regards to the masks by which Alabama plans to pipe nitrogen into him. A federal decide described the contraption in a court docket doc as an “industrial grade, steady move supplied-air respirator masks with an adjustable 5 level harness system and a pliable, double flange rubber seal that will tightly match and maintain the masks over everything of the wearer’s face – together with eyes, nostril, mouth and chin”.

The hazard, critics have warned, is that if the seal is just not good, oxygen might seep into the masks and result in a chronic and distressing loss of life. It is usually one factor to supply an industrial masks to a employee for his or her self-protection, it’s one other factor solely to power it onto an individual who may wrestle and resist merely to remain alive.

“I’m not taking part,” Smith mentioned, referring to his personal execution. “I’m not gonna, , seize the masks and strap it on, I’m not gonna assist them.”

The concept that he would co-operate with the division of corrections in his personal demise reminds Smith, he informed the Guardian, of what guards mentioned to him as they have been attempting to stay a large needle underneath his collar bone through the failed 2022 execution. Smith recalled that he cried out in excruciating ache.

As he did so, the deputy warden who was tightly gripping his head leaned over to him and informed him to calm down. “Kenny, that is to your personal good,” he mentioned.


Certainly one of Smith’s biggest anxieties as he braces himself for what’s coming is having to say goodbye for a second time to these he loves most. Ought to the execution go forward, his spouse Deeanna will likely be with him within the witness part of the loss of life chamber, however he should have a remaining phrase upfront along with his 78-year-old mom Linda – “my little mama” – and his 12-year-old grandson Crimson, named after the College of Alabama soccer group.

“That’s so, so onerous. I’m placing them by this once more, and I don’t know the way we do it,” he mentioned. “I acquired a tricky bunch with me, my household are superb. We’ll get by it.”

His legal professionals are making eleventh-hour appeals to federal judges, arguing that each the proposed use of nitrogen and the truth that Smith has already been traumatized by the failed try and kill him are types of merciless and weird punishment barred underneath the US structure. They’re urgent for a keep of execution, although at this late stage the sand within the hourglass is working out.

Because the buzzer sounds marking the tip of quarter-hour, I squeeze in a single final query. If he had the prospect to say one thing to individuals at giant, what wouldn’t it be?

“You realize, brother, I’d say, ‘Depart room for mercy’. That simply doesn’t exist in Alabama. Mercy actually doesn’t exist on this nation in terms of tough conditions like mine.”

Immediately Information High Newsmaac


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here