“Similar to Fish Without Water”: Observer on American Detainees N2 Gas Execution

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Change in Execution Method in US Results in Grim Controversy

Kenneth Eugene Smith: The First Man Executed with Nitrogen Gas

News from Reader Wall today involves a profoundly sobering event that has sparked wide controversy: convicted killer Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, has become the pioneer in the United States for being executed using nitrogen gas. This method of capital punishment falls under harsh criticism and has been vehemently condemned by different human rights activists, along with the United Nations and even the White House.

The macabre event lasted a shocking 22 minutes, during which Smith visibly writhed and thrashed about repeatedly. This unsettling sight was characterized as a ‘horror show’ by Reverend Jeff Hood, a spiritual advisor who witnessed the execution along with several others. The unusual and disturbing manner of Smith’s death even seemed to alarm the prison staff, who were noticeably taken aback, according to Hood.

The Reaction of the Prison Staff

Hood expressed that the obvious horror and surprise exhibited by the personnel did not go unnoticed. In his words, “There was clear shock and surprise on their faces. In that circumstance, it’s hard to know what is what, but I know what I saw in terms of the horror on the faces of people in front of me”. He also mentioned hearing audible gasps emanate from the crowd, while Smith struggled noticeably for breath.

The reverend compared the grim spectacle to a Hollywood production of some sort. It was something he claimed would always remain a stark memory in his mind.

The Controversial Execution Method

Nitrogen hypoxia, the method employed in this execution, has marked the first-ever diversion from the traditionally used lethal injection in the US. Human rights activists dub this method an “untested human experiment”. Conducted at Holman Prison in Alabama, the procedure involves forcing the condemned individual to inhale nitrogen instead of oxygen through a respirator mask.

Discrepancy Between Expectation and Reality

Despite assurances from the prison authorities regarding the instantaneous death, Hood recounted that the messy reality was far removed from these claims. “They said all along that this was going to be nearly instantaneous. They were told this is going to be quick, easy and painless. They kept saying this is the most humane way society has ever figured out how to execute people. That he would be gone, unconscious, in seconds. What we saw last night was minutes, minutes, and minutes of a horror show,” Hood explained.

He further noted that Smith resembled a “fish out of water, flapping over and over again”. This disturbing visual has further fueled the controversy surrounding the method’s supposed ‘humaneness’.

Strong Reactions from Various Quarters

Reader Wall reports that the White House has expressed deep distress concerning this incident. Furthermore, the EU, civil liberties groups, and Volker Turk, the UN’s human rights chief, have also voiced strong concerns over the inhumane manner of Smith’s execution.

Smith, who was on death row for over 30 years, was convicted for arranging the murder of a pastor’s wife back in 1988.

John Kerry

John Kerry, a distinguished author in the realm of science, explores the intricate intersections of environmental policy and scientific advancements. With an insightful pen, he navigates complex issues, offering readers a profound understanding of the crucial role science plays in shaping sustainable futures. Dive into Kerry's work on ReaderWall to embark on a journey through the nexus of science and policy.