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Alabama cleared to become first state to execute inmate with nitrogen gas: court

Alabama’s Supreme Court cleared the state Wednesday to execute an inmate using nitrogen gas.

The state’s attorney general’s request for an execution warrant for Kenneth Eugene Smith was granted in a 6-2 decision by an all-Republican court.

Last year, the Alabama Department of Corrections called off the execution of Smith when the people responsible for connecting two intravenous lines to him for lethal injection could not do so.

While the ruling moves the state closer to becoming the first to attempt execution with nitrogen gas, there is likely to be additional legal dispute on the matter. Alabama joins Oklahoma and Mississippi with authorization to use nitrogen hypoxia as a form of execution, although no state has yet attempted to use it.

Chief Justice Tom Parker and Justice Greg Cook dissented in Wednesday’s decision.

Prosecutors said that Smith was one of two men who were each paid $1,000 to kill Sennett on behalf of her pastor husband, who was deeply in debt and wanted to collect on insurance. The slaying, and the revelations over who was behind it, rocked the small north Alabama community. Her husband killed himself a week later. The other man convicted in the slaying was executed in 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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