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New execution methods likely in LA after historic Alabama execution

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BATON ROUGE - 58-year-old Kenneth Smith was executed Thursday night in Alabama, and for the first time, nitrogen hypoxia was used.

Witnesses said Smith convulsed and struggled against his restraints during the 22-minute execution. Prison officials called the movements “involuntary” and that nothing out of the ordinary occurred.

Nitrogen asphyxiation is the the nation’s first new method of execution since lethal injection was introduced in 1982. The historic moment opening doors for other states, including Louisiana. 

"That's certainly an avenue we need to explore as long as it's legal and humane," State Sen. Stewart Cathey, R -Monroe, said. 

Lawmakers are expecting the topic to come up during up a special crime session scheduled next month. Currently, lethal injection is the only legal execution method in the state. Something that has not been done in 14 years due to a drug shortage. 

"We can't get the drugs from the pharmaceutical companies because they realize they want their drugs to be used to save life, not take it," Rep. Kyle Green, D - Jefferson parish told WBRZ last year. 

Lawmakers like Cathey and Governor Jeff Landry support executions starting again.

"Hopefully, we'll figure out a way around that, and get the people that committed these heinous crimes, to have their sentences carried out," Cathey said.

Not everyone is for the executions, which a judge can only sentence if the crime meets a specific criteria. Last year, Green tried to pass a bill to abolish the death penalty altogether. 

"This state leads the nation in the number of exonerations off of death row, this state has repeated to get it wrong more than it gets it right, were talking about a punishment that is irresponsible," Green said.

That bill died in committee. 

"My good friend, but we disagree, Tony Clayton, explained to me we keep this on the books, because it deters crime. If that's the case, we wouldn't have anyone killing anybody," Green said.

Advocates for inmates hopeful the new method does not become the norm.

"This past year proves that Louisianians want an open and honest conversion examining serious, fundamental problems with the death penalty, and that conversation has to go on before any discussion of methods will be meaningful. As the world watched, Alabama smothered and suffocated a man to death using a new, untested method of execution which they rushed to implement. Of course, Louisiana would never do what Alabama did last night," Cecelia Kappel, Director of the Capital Appeals Project, said.
The Governor's office did not respond for a comment.

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