Kenneth Smith, left, embraces his spiritual advisor, the Rev. Jeff Hood. (Courtesy Rev. Jeff Hood)
After an experimental execution of inmate, Kenneth Smith, and he was pronounced dead at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama just six days ago, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today issued a press release urging “kickstarting” the execution of Ohio Death Row inmates.
After the Alabama execution, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said, “Alabama has done it, and now so can you. And we stand ready to assist you in implementing this method in your states”.
Smith’s spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeff Hood, who’d previously expressed concern that the method could be inhumane, witnessed the execution and described it in more graphic terms, saying it was “the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”
Smith, wearing a tight-fitting mask that covered his entire face, convulsed when the gas was turned on, “popped up on the gurney” repeatedly, and gasped, heaved and spat, Hood said.
“It was absolutely horrific,” he said. – (CNN)
A Press Release from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost:
AG Yost, Other Elected Officials Propose Legislation to Address Issues in Ohio’s Capital-Punishment System
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, together with state Reps. Brian Stewart and Phil Plummer and Executive Director Lou Tobin of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, today announced the introduction of legislation to permit the use of nitrogen hypoxia as a method for carrying out the death penalty.
The bill is aimed at kickstarting the state’s stalled capital-punishment system.
“There must be accountability for offenders convicted of the most heinous crimes and prisoners who continue to flout the law behind bars,” Yost said. “The pursuit of justice is a journey, and closure remains elusive for victims’ families until a sentence is fully executed. Ensuring that the consequences align with the severity of an offense is essential to providing solace to grieving relatives.”
Nitrogen hypoxia drew national attention last week when Alabama used this method to carry out the death sentence of murderer Kenneth Eugene Smith – the first state to employ nitrogen, a colorless and odorless gas, in an execution. With this procedure, a condemned inmate breathes only nitrogen, leading to oxygen deprivation, which results in rapid unconsciousness and death.
Ohio last carried out an execution by lethal injection on July 18, 2018, more than five years ago. Multiple reprieves have been granted, in part due to the reluctance of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide lethal injection drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for executions.
Attorney General Yost hopes that nitrogen — widely available and easily sourced — can break the impasse of unavailability of drugs for lethal injection.
Under the new legislation — sponsored in the House by Stewart, R-Ashville, and Plummer, R-Dayton — manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors that provide lethal injection drugs to the state would receive indefinite confidentiality, instead of the current two-year confidentiality. Suppliers of nitrogen for executions would receive similar confidentiality.
“As long as capital punishment remains the law in Ohio, the law should be followed – and duly enacted sentences should be carried out to give victims’ families the justice and finality they deserve,” Stewart said. “Providing an additional method for carrying out capital punishments is necessary to ensure Ohio can continue to impose these sentences in response to the most heinous crimes committed in our state.”
Added Plummer: “By using nitrogen hypoxia, we are giving the system an additional resource for holding accountable those who have committed heinous crimes. It is time that we stop postponing executions and give the families of victims the closure that they deserve.”
Tobin echoed those thoughts.
“We will continue to work to ensure that the death penalty is fair, that it is accurate, and that defendants receive the due process that they deserve,” he said. “We want fairness and justice for the victims also. This legislation is about providing closure for victims and for their families.”
Yost highlighted shortcomings in the state’s capital-punishment system in the “2022 Capital Crimes Report,” released last year. An annual mandate under state law, the report provides a procedural history and other details on every case resulting in a death sentence since 1981, the year Ohio reinstated the death penalty.
From 1981 to Jan. 30, 2024, a total of 336 criminals convicted in Ohio received a combined 341 death sentences, the report said. Only 56 sentences — one in six — have been carried out.
In releasing the report, Yost emphasized the need to broaden the death penalty conversation and give a voice to victims’ families. Among those he has engaged in the discussion is Norman Stout, husband of Mary Jane Stout, who was murdered by David Stumpf during a May 1984 robbery near the couple’s home in New Concord, Ohio.
The Stouts allowed Stumpf and Clyde Wesley into their home to use their phone. While Wesley ransacked the house, Stumpf shot Mr. Stout twice in the head, leaving him seriously wounded, and then shot Mrs. Stout four times, killing her.
Mr. Stout, now 93, has been seeking justice for his wife for nearly four decades, only to see Stumpf’s execution postponed several times. Mr. Stout has said he plans to witness Stumpf’s execution — currently scheduled for Aug. 13, 2024 — but he worries that his advanced age might preclude him from seeing justice prevail.