USA: 'cruel' nitrogen gas execution in Alabama must be stopped

Kenneth Smith set to face the untested execution method despite UN warning it could amount to torture

Smith only on death row because of now-outlawed ‘judicial override’ procedure

‘It’s disturbing that the state of Alabama is willing to execute Kenneth Smith under these circumstances’ - Justin Mazzola

In response to the scheduled execution by nitrogen gas suffocation of Kenneth Smith by the US state of Alabama later this week (25 January), Justin Mazzola, an Amnesty International USA researcher, said: 

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, and we urge Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to use her clemency power to stop the execution of Kenneth Smith before it’s too late.

“While Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty in all cases, there are specifics about Kenneth Smith’s circumstances that make it even more disturbing that Alabama is willing to carry out this execution.

“This execution will be carried out by nitrogen gas, a method not previously used, on a man who was subjected to a cruel botched execution attempt just 14 months ago. 

“The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted how this new untested method could be extremely painful, result in a botched execution, and could amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, thereby violating international human rights treaties that the US has ratified.

“Kenneth Smith is on death row because of a now illegal practice called judicial override, where after a jury voted for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole a judge singlehandedly overrode the decision of the jury and imposed a death sentence.

“The Alabama legislature and Governor Ivey outlawed this practice in 2017, but it was never made retroactive.

“It’s disturbing that the state of Alabama is willing to execute Kenneth Smith under these circumstances.

“Governor Ivey has an opportunity to use her clemency power to stop this execution, but she shouldn’t stop there - she should also work with the legislature to pass and enact this year’s bill, HB 27, to make the ban on judicial override retroactive, thus providing relief to others in Smith’s situation, including Rocky Myers.”

Amnesty’s campaign calling for Kenneth Smith’s execution to be halted is here

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