Alabama aims to conduct second nitrogen execution

FILE PHOTO: Execution of Kenneth Smith by asphyxiation using pure nitrogen in Atmore

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) - Alabama's attorney general on Wednesday asked the state's Supreme Court to authorize a second execution by nitrogen hypoxia, after the state last month became the first to kill a condemned prisoner using the new method of capital punishment.

Alabama has since offered to aid other states seeking to carry out executions using nitrogen gas, a method Alabama called "the most painless and humane method of execution known to man" but one that human rights groups have condemned as cruel and torturous.

Alabama has touted asphyxiation as a simpler alternative for prison systems that struggle to find either veins or the required drugs for lethal injections.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a motion asking the court to allow the Alabama Department of Corrections to execute Alan Eugene Miller, who has been on death row since 2000 for murdering two co-workers and a former co-worker at separate locations in 1999. If approved, Governor Kay Ivey would set a date.

Miller had previously been assigned an execution date in 2022 but it was delayed by last-minute legal action, according to the filing.

"As the State of Alabama is prepared to carry out the execution of Miller's sentence by means of nitrogen hypoxia, it is once more the appropriate time for the execution of his sentence," the filing said.

On Jan. 25, Alabama put to death convicted murderer Kenneth Smith, who held his breath in vain as executioners asphyxiated him with nitrogen gas.

The state had predicted Smith would lose consciousness in less than a minute and die soon after. However, Smith appeared to remain conscious for several minutes after the nitrogen was activated, according to five journalists who were witnesses.

Marshall said in a statement afterward that the execution of Smith proved that nitrogen hypoxia was "an effective and humane method of execution."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)