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OMG, we aren't executing anyone anymore?

I suppose we're not allowed to enjoy a good movie anymore either?

Capital punishment

The US Supreme Court declined to block the execution of an Alabama death row inmate using nitrogen gas, making Kenneth Eugene Smith, who was convicted of murder in 1989, the first American to be executed by the untested method on Thursday evening.

Alabama had previously tried to execute Smith by lethal injection 2 years ago, but officials failed to locate a vein before the warrant expired. Now, a nationwide debate has been sparked about whether using nitrogen asphyxiation is ethical. The UN had called on Alabama to stop the execution, warning that it might cause "grave suffering".

While nitrogen makes up 78% of the air we breathe, when inhaled at a high concentration it causes cell breakdown due to oxygen depletion. As the drugs used in lethal injections have become harder to source due to pharmaceutical sales restrictions, Alabama is 1 of 3 states where using the inert gas has been legalized, alongside Oklahoma and Mississippi; however, a formal execution protocol was only established last August.

More broadly, in part due to the pitfalls of the widely-used injection method, America’s death row has shrunk considerably since the turn of the century: the execution-awaiting inmate population sank from 3,593 in 2000 to 2,331 in 2022, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center. The actual number of executions has also declined: in 1999, there were 98 executions, a figure that has fallen to an average of ~18 in the last 5 years, although there are 26 executions scheduled in the US this year.

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