Kenneth Smith: Alabama CALLS OFF killer's execution after prison staff have trouble finding his veins

Prison staff were reportedly trying for about an hour to get the two required intravenous lines connected to Smith, 57

Kenneth Smith: Alabama CALLS OFF killer's execution after prison staff have trouble finding his veins
The execution of Kenneth Smith, who was convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire slaying of a preacher's wife, was called off Thursday (Alabama DOC)
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MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: The execution of Kenneth Smith, who was convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire slaying of a preacher's wife, was called off Thursday, November 17, just before the midnight deadline after state officials couldn't locate a suitable vein to inject the lethal concoction of drugs.

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Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm revealed prison staff tried for about an hour to get the two required intravenous lines connected to Smith, 57. They were reportedly able to establish one line but couldn't connect the second after trying several locations on Smith's body. Hamm said officials subsequently tried a central line, which involves a catheter connected to a large vein. "We were not able to have time to complete that, so we called off the execution," Hamm explained.

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Smith's execution was cleared by the US Supreme Court at about 10.20 pm when it lifted a stay issued earlier in the evening by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The state of Alabama, however, decided about an hour later that they couldn't proceed with the lethal injection that evening. This came after Smith's final appeals focused on problems with intravenous lines at the last two scheduled lethal injections in the state. Now, Alabama must go back to court to seek a new execution date considering the death warrant expired at midnight.

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Smith, who was returned to death row following the botched execution, was one of two men who were hired to kill Elizabeth Sennett for $1,000 each on behalf of her husband, who was reportedly deeply in debt and wanted to collect her life insurance. The murder and the subsequent revelations of who was responsible shook the small north Alabama community. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey appeared to blame Smith's last-minute appeals for the execution not going forward as planned. "Kenneth Eugene Smith chose $1,000 over the life of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, and he was guilty, no question about it," Ivey said. "Some three decades ago, a promise was made to Elizabeth's family that justice would be served through a lawfully imposed death sentence. Although that justice could not be carried out tonight because of last-minute legal attempts to delay or cancel the execution, attempting it was the right thing to do," she added. 

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It's worth noting that Alabama has faced scrutiny over issues during recent lethal injections. Lawyers for several inmates are seeking information about the qualifications of the execution team members tasked with connecting the IV lines. A federal judge asked the state in a Thursday hearing in Smith's case how long was too long to try to establish a line, noting at least one state gives an hour limit. The execution of Joe Nathan James Jr was delayed for several hours due to problems in establishing an IV line. In September, the state was forced to postpone the scheduled execution of Alan Miller after prison staff faced difficulty accessing his veins.

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The prison system said Smith visited with his attorney and family members -- including his wife -- in the hours leading up to the scheduled execution. He reportedly ate cheese curls and drank water, but declined the prison breakfast offered to him. Smith was initially convicted in 1989 and a jury voted 10-2 to recommend a death sentence. His conviction was reportedly overturned in 1992, but he was tried and convicted again in 1996, when a jury voted 11-1 to recommend a life sentence, but a judge overrode that recommendation and sentenced Smith to death, the Daily Mail reported.

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