The United Nations, Kenny Smith & Alabama : Nuanced

The United Nations, Kenny Smith & Alabama : Nuanced January 4, 2024


The United Nations, Kenny Smith & Alabama: Nuanced


The United Nations (a panel of their experts) issued a press release today entitled, “United States: UN experts alarmed at prospect of first-ever untested execution by nitrogen hypoxia in Alabama.”  In it, various international experts call for Kenneth (Kenny) Smith’s execution in Alabama to be stayed…citing their concern that the method of nitrogen hypoxia could possibly result in a “painful and humiliating” death.  Of course, they’re right.  There is no doubt in my mind that Alabama doesn’t know what’s going to happen when their protocol is carried out.  How could they?  The execution method of nitrogen hypoxia has never been tried before.  As Kenny’s spiritual advisor, I have a tremendous amount at stake in this conversation.  If the method goes wrong or is botched, I could also be in danger.  Which is what brings me to a somewhat nuanced view of the usefulness of the statement that the United Nations put out.


For decades, the United Nations has released statements such as this about executions in the United States.  For decades, such statements have been ignored.  As a child of the South (even educated in Alabama), I know a little bit about the pride that runs deep in the Southern consciousness.  Across a broad spectrum of identities, Southerners are known for not taking kindly to unsolicited outside advice.  This is why I often question the thinking that the United Nations is going to be one of the vehicles to stop one of these executions.  If anything, it seems like most Southerners are going to respond in the opposite direction…i.e. a press release from the (sometimes derided) United Nations is going to make Southern politicians and judges want to proceed with the execution even more.  Southern politicians love thumbing their noses at outside experts.  I’m not advocating for the closed thinking of my fellow Southerners…I’m just saying that such thinking is what it is… and I have found these statements/releases less than helpful in our efforts to persuade Southern politicians and judges to stop an execution.


While I am thankful for the words of the United Nation’s experts and the efforts that many experts familiar with the case have put forward to secure this statement (and it is certainly helpful in some quarters), I want to make sure that people advocating for Kenny realize the possible consequences of relying solely (or even primarily) on such a release for their advocacy.  Southern politicians and judges need to hear from Southerners if we are ever going to be able to stop this or any other execution.  Presently, we must concentrate on mobilizing people and getting our message out in Alabama.


Kenny (and everyone else threatened by this nitrogen hypoxia method) deserves all the energy you have.

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