US News Alabama man shook violently on gurney during first-ever nitrogen gas execution

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A man put to death using nitrogen gas shook and convulsed for minutes on the gurney as Alabama carried out the first-of-its-kind execution that has ignited debate over the humaneness of the method.

Breathing through a nitrogen-filled face mask that deprived him of oxygen, 58-year-old convicted killer Kenneth Eugene Smith convulsed in seizurelike spasms for at least two minutes of the 22-minute execution by nitrogen hypoxia Thursday. The force of his movements at times caused the gurney to visibly shake. That was followed by several minutes of heavy breathing until his breath was no longer perceptible.

Smith’s supporters expressed alarm at how the execution played out, saying it was the antithesis of the state’s promise of a quick and painless death. But Alabama’s attorney general characterized the execution as “textbook” during a Friday news conference.

“As of last night, nitrogen hypoxia as a means of execution is no longer an untested method. It is a proven one,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said, extending an offer of help for states considering adopting the method.

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