MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has set an execution time frame for Kenneth Eugene Smith, less than one week after the state’s highest court said he could be executed using nitrogen hypoxia.
Ivey announced on Wednesday that Smith’s execution window is set for a 30-hour time frame beginning at midnight on January 25, 2024, and expiring at 6 a.m. on January 26, 2024.
Smith’s execution marks the first time this nitrogen hypoxia method will be used in Alabama. It is essentially death by suffocation, as the person dies from a lack of oxygen.
Smith was convicted in 1996 of a 1988 murder-for-hire-killing in Colbert County. Court records show Smith said he was paid $1,000 for the killing by the victim’s husband, Charles Sennett Sr., a Colbert County minister. Smith said two other men were also involved. Sennett killed himself before facing charges.
The Associated Press reported Thursday the Alabama Supreme Court in a 6-2 decision granted the state attorney general’s request for an execution warrant for Kenneth Eugene Smith.
The order did not specify the execution method, but the Alabama attorney general indicated in filings with the court that it intends to use nitrogen to put Smith to death.
The AP states Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the decision on Nov. 1, saying the ruling had “cleared the way” for execution by nitrogen hypoxia after Sennett’s family “waited an unconscionable 35 years to see justice served.”
This ruling comes after the state unsuccessfully attempted to put Smith to death by lethal injection in 2022, which led to a “top-to-bottom” review of Alabama’s execution process.
The Alabama Supreme Court changed procedures and moved to a “time frame” structure following the internal review of executions to give the state more time to carry out a death sentence. Previously, the court issued a death warrant authorizing the state to carry out the execution on a single day.