Stop Nitrogen Hypoxia: Meet Us in Alabama!

Stop Nitrogen Hypoxia: Meet Us in Alabama! January 1, 2024


In a little over three weeks, the State of Alabama intends to strap a mask on the face of Kenny Smith as tight as possible to create an airtight.  Then, prison officials will step back, allow nitrogen to flow into the mask and wait for Smith to be declared dead.  If successful, this new execution procedure known as “nitrogen hypoxia” will become the latest option in a long line of procedures dubbed more humane than the last.  Think about it, in the late 1800s…the electric chair was considered merciful compared to hanging, in the 1980s…lethal injection was hailed as a simple medical procedure compared to electrocution and now…nitrogen hypoxia is being sold as something that just makes the condemned drift away from this life on a cloud.  In each of these moments, innovation was sold as progress.  Of course, anyone with any sort of understanding of what true progress is…realizes that killing is never progress.  Executions are as morally fraught then as it is now…no matter what method is used to carry it out.


Presently, I am fighting to save the life of Kenny Smith with a broad coalition of partners.  We all believe that Smith’s is a life that’s worth saving.  But we’re not unaware of the fact that if Kenny Smith is killed by nitrogen hypoxia…a great many will be killed after him by the same method.


The arrival of this moment is due at least in part to the vast successes of the abolition movement.


Lethal injections are harder to carry out than they ever have been before.  Drugs have become nearly impossible to acquire.  Litigation has created roadblocks to easy implementation.  Campaigns to abolish the death penalty has created more scrutiny than ever before.  It’s as if all this success has led to the need for a much easier means of execution.


Enter nitrogen hypoxia…


If you decided you needed a cylinder of nitrogen gas, there are places that could get it by the end of the day.  The nitrogen hypoxia protocol is far simpler than the lethal injection protocol.  There is no need for needles, searching for veins or a whole host of possibly complicating factors.  The training required to successfully perform such an execution is less specialized.  If you can strap someone down and put a mask over their face then you can perform the execution procedure.  It has even been reported that the method is also much cheaper…which would make sense…since nitrogen hypoxia requires so much less to make it work.  I could go on…but the point is that states are going to sprint to this new method of execution if it lives up to the ease that is being promised.


So what is the abolitionist to do?


Most seem to just want to do nothing…except sit back and watch to see if it works…until it directly comes to their state.  Such thinking is deeply misguided.  Because, by the time nitrogen hypoxia gets to your state it will be too late.  The floodgates of a new wave of executions will be upon you.  Now…Kenny Smith…is the moment to take our stand.


I am asking you to join us in the fight to save the life of Kenny Smith.  For Kenny of course.  But also, for the people sitting on death rows around the country who could be next.


Will you meet us in Alabama?



Sign the petition to say, “NO TO NITROGEN HYPOXIA!”

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