On January 25, Alabama plans to execute Kenneth “Kenny” Eugene Smith using the untested execution method of nitrogen hypoxia. Nitrogen hypoxia is a process in which an individual is fitted with a mask and forced to breathe pure nitrogen gas. Without oxygen flowing through the airways, the body will be slowly deprived of this element which is necessary for all tissue functions, and the person will die.
Catholic Mobilizing Network’s Executive Director, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, offers the following statement on the day before his scheduled execution:
“Kenny is a human being, not an experiment. It’s confounding the lengths to which Alabama is going to take his life.
The state’s plan to kill Kenny using nitrogen hypoxia, an untested execution method, is reckless, inhumane, and a violation of his inherent human dignity.
Kenny has been on death row for 35 years. A judge overrode his jury to give him a death sentence. He survived a botched execution, suffering through hours of poking and prodding before the state was ultimately unable to set an intravenous line for his lethal injection. And now he is being made to serve as a test case for killing by nitrogen hypoxia. What in the world…have we lost our minds?
I was moved to tears when I read these words from Kenny, provided in an interview with NPR: ‘I’m still carrying the trauma from the last time. I’m absolutely terrified.’
As a Church we mourn the life of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, and we pray for those who continue to grieve her death. At the same time, we do not condone this execution — nor any execution — as a form of justice.
Returning death for death only perpetuates cycles of harm and violence. We as a people of faith are called to show mercy, to believe in the power of redemption, and to provide opportunities for all people to experience healing and wholeness.”