Murderer executed with nitrogen

Kenneth Eugene Smith was a hit-man hired to murder Church of Christ pastor Charles Sennet's wife Elizabeth in 1988. Having done so, he was convicted of the crime, sentenced to death, and finally killed yesterday—the first person to be executed with nitrogen.

Officials said Kenneth Eugene Smith, 58, was pronounced dead at 8:25 p.m. at an Alabama prison after breathing pure nitrogen gas through a face mask to cause oxygen deprivation. It marked the first time that a new execution method has been used in the United States since lethal injection, now the most commonly used method, was introduced in 1982. The execution took about 22 minutes from the time between the opening and closing of the curtains to the viewing room. Smith appeared to remain conscious for several minutes. For at least two minutes, he appeared to shake and writhe on the gurney, sometimes pulling against the restraints. That was followed by several minutes of heavy breathing, until breathing was no longer perceptible.

An interesting thing about it is that this form of death, inert gas asphyxiation, is favored by assisted dying advocates as the least unpleasant way to go. In this case, though, coverage of it is extremely hostile, for obvious-enough reasons. Extensive coverage was given to people claiming that being executed with nitrogen is an agonizing and humiliating death. N: from euthanasia's best hope to the ultimate symbol of state cruelty in a single media cycle.

Previously in nitrogen:

Previously: Prehistoric cave painters may have been hallucinating due to lack of oxygen