Holman death row inmate executed by nitrogen hypoxia Jan. 25 at Holman

Published 10:32 am Friday, January 26, 2024

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A William C. Holman Correctional Facility death row inmate was executed by nitrogen hypoxia Jan. 25 at the facility just outside Atmore, according to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office.


According to Ivey, after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the execution of Kenneth E. Smith to move forward, Ivey told Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm that she wouldn’t exercise her clemency power in the case, and directed him to proceed with the death sentence. According to reports, three U.S. Supreme Court justices dissented on the ruling.

Smith was convicted in 1996 for the murder of 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett in a murder-for-hire slaying, according to reports. He was one of three convicted for the murder of Sennett, whose husband, a pastor, recruited them to kill her, according to reports.

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During the trial, the jury voted 11-1 for life in prison, but the presiding judge overruled and sentenced him to death. Since then, state laws prohibit judges from overruling jury decisions, according to reports.

According to a New York Times report, Lee Hedgepeth, a reporter in Alabama who witnessed the execution, said Smith’s head moved back and forth violently in the minutes after the execution began.

“This was the fifth execution that I’ve witnessed in Alabama, and I have never seen such a violent reaction to an execution,” Hedgepeth said on the Times’ website.

Smith’s time of death was 8:25 p.m., according to Ivey’s office.

“On March 18, 1988, 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett’s life was brutally taken from her by Kenneth Eugene Smith,” Ivey said in a statement. “After more than 30 years and attempt after attempt to game the system, Mr. Smith has answered for his horrendous crimes.

“The execution was lawfully carried out by nitrogen hypoxia, the method previously requested by Mr. Smith as an alternative to lethal injection,” she said. “At long last, Mr. Smith got what he asked for, and this case can finally be put to rest. I pray that Elizabeth Sennett’s family can receive closure after all these years dealing with that great loss.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall issued the following statement after the execution of Smith.

“Justice has been served,” Marshall said. “I ask the people of Alabama to join me in praying for Elizabeth’s family and friends, that they might now better be able to find long-awaited peace and closure.”

The execution also marked the first time in the United States and the world that nitrogen hypoxia was used as a method of execution. The law was enacted in 2018, according to the Attorney General’s office.

This was also the second execution attempt on Smith, whose November 2022 try wasn’t successful as veins weren’t found for lethal injection.