Alabama has already tried to execute Kenneth Smith once. On the night of November 17, 2022, he was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection, but workers couldn’t find a vein to place an IV. They tried for an hour, during which, he was stuck with needles in his arms, hands and collar bones, but all in vain.
Smith, one of only two living people in the U.S. to have survived an execution attempt, faces death again. On Thursday, the state of Alabama plans to execute him using a method it calls nitrogen hypoxia. It has never been tested in the U.S.
Smith, 58, is facing execution by an untested method that has never before been used in capital punishment in the US. It’s a technique that has been rejected on ethical grounds by veterinarians for the euthanasia of most animals other than pigs: death by nitrogen gas.
This week, Smith contacted The Guardian newspaper in England from Holman prison and spent his allotted 15 minutes for outside phone calls describing the surreal position in which he now finds himself. He is an execution survivor who is about to go through execution procedures a second time, through an entirely untried method.
“I am not ready for that. Not in no kind of way. I’m just not ready, brother,” he said.
In the wake of Smith’s failed execution, he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is being prescribed a cocktail of medications including drugs to control migraines. His prison psychiatrist has recorded that he is suffering from insomnia, anxiety and depression – symptoms often associated with severe trauma.
He told The Guardian that he was unable to sleep because of frequent nightmares and the “what-if games you play in the middle of the night”. Following the first execution attempt, he said, he had a recurring nightmare of being escorted back into the death chamber.
Sources: NPR, The Guardian.