Journalist recalls what death row inmate says he experienced night of botched execution

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:34 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A staff writer with The Atlantic spoke with death row inmate Kenneth Smith the night of his botched execution just a few weeks ago.

Though he was set to die by lethal injection November 17, the state said they couldn’t go through with it because they couldn’t insert an IV. This was the third failed execution since 2018 and the second one this year.

Elizabeth Bruenig tracks executions across the United States and just two weeks ago, she served as a personal witness for Kenneth Smith’s execution and spoke with him after it was called off.

She says Smith spoke with Allen Miller (another death row inmate whose execution failed this year) extensively about his experience so he wasn’t confused as he was being repeatedly stabbed with needles that night.

“He was rattled I would say,” said Bruenig. “You know, you’ve just been through something incredibly terrifying and painful. He was heartbroken for what his family had gone through. They were just sort of in a lot of emotional upset and turmoil together.”

Bruenig says two of Smith’s sons were present to witness the execution, along with his wife, mother, sister, and daughter-in-law.

She goes on to say his account of that night was similar to Allen Miller’s account. She explains that three older men were part of the IV team that night. While their identifications are unknown, Bruenig believes two are local paramedics and one is a physician.

She says Smith remembers being strapped down to a gurney for several hours and was not informed he had an Eleventh Circuit Stay at one point. He told her he was pierced with needles all over his body and they attempted to set a central line beneath the collar bone in the neck. When they still couldn’t find a vein, the execution was called off.

You can read more about her conversation with Kenneth Smith in her article A History of Violence.

Recently filed court documents by the attorneys for Smith claim the execution process continued despite a stay from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Executions in Alabama are currently on hold after Governor Ivey ordered review of the process.

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