Nitrogen asphyxiation: What would the first execution of a US prisoner with this method be like?

An American prisoner will be executed this Wednesday in Alabama (southern United States) with nitrogen gas, a method that is used “to kill pigs” and that causes great suffering to the prisoner, Mario Marazziti, co-founder of the World Coalition, denounced today in Rome. against the Death Penalty.

The state of Alabama plans to execute Kenneth Eugene Smithsentenced to death for murder for more than three decades, with nitrogen gas, a method of asphyxiation never before used and common in the sacrifice of animals for human consumption.

“The world cannot allow people to be killed in such a barbaric way,” said Marazziti, one of the founders of the organization that advocates for the end of capital punishment in the world and a member of the Catholic community movement of San Egidio.

Smith, 58, He is the second American prisoner to have left the execution chamber alive, since the executioner spent “more than 4 hours trying” to find the correct vein to administer the lethal injection, without success.

What would the first execution of a prisoner with nitrogen be like?

If the execution takes place, the inmate will be forced to breathe only nitrogen, which will deprive his brain and other tissues of oxygen, causing his death, a method that, according to UN experts, can cause great suffering to the inmate.

“Veterinarians do not want this method to be used to kill animals”, although today it is used “especially for pigs, with prior sedation”, something that, the activist against the death penalty assured, will not be used with the American prisoner.

The implementation of the use of nitrogen gas responds to the difficulties in acquiring the drugs that make up lethal injection by the states that still maintain capital punishment, due to the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to allow them to be used for this purpose.

Smith’s lawyers filed a lawsuit alleging that, in addition, their client was going to be used as a guinea pig to try this form for the first time. of execution, authorized in 2018.

‘Nitrogen asphyxiation is the execution that produces the least suffering’

Despite the continuous legal disputes, the authorities of the state of Alabama have been working for years on a protocol to carry out executions with this new method, which, as they indicated in a statement, is that this is “the one that produces the least suffering” to the prisoners.

“This is totally false, because it has not yet been proven,” said Marazziti, who asked that “a global shame” be avoided with this execution.

Currently, only three of the 27 states that maintain the death penalty, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama, allow the use of nitrogen gas for executions.

The community of San Egidio, known for its role in conflict mediation, also asked the Government of Italy to “boycott” the authorities of Alabama, discouraging both tourism and investments in that state.

With less than 48 hours until the execution of Kenneth Smith, Marazziti trusts that the “global pressure” on the governor of Alabama, the Republican Kay Ivey, will allow the death of the inmate to be avoided, something that she can decide until “the last moment” before it occurs.

“Silence about this execution is ineffective, because it is inhumane,” added the co-founder of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, who maintained that they are fighting “a battle between the culture of life and death.”