‘A Short Film About Killing’: The movie that brought an end to the Polish death penalty

The most intellectually challenging film I have ever seen about capital punishment. Definitely a must-see. DPN review and YouTube trailer available in our 'Films & Documentaries' section — DPN editor As far as European cinema goes, there are few figures quite admired in critical circles as the inimitable Krzysztof Kieślowski. Known for his Dekalog series of 1989, as well as The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colours trilogy, Kieślowski embodied everything so extraordinary about the power of European cinema and that of his native Poland in turn.

USA | Voters divided over nitrogen gas executions

Convicted killer Kenneth Eugene Smith's agonizing death on gurney left people wary of the new punishment, our first-of-its-kind poll reveals

Voters are divided over the use of nitrogen gas in state executions, according to the first poll on the controversial method since it debuted in Alabama last month on convicted killer Kenneth Eugene Smith.

The nationwide DailyMail.com/TIPP Poll of 1,402 US adults offers no clear verdict on the execution that saw Smith breath nitrogen through a mask and die after 22 minutes - during which time he thrashed around and convulsed. 

While 39 percent of respondents said they supported the lethal gassing of Smith, a similar share — 35 percent — said they were opposed. 

Another 26 percent said they were not sure.

Results also varied widely depending on the respondent's gender, age, location and political affiliation. 

Still, the results may help policymakers in the few remaining states that carry out executions, and are considering switching over to nitrogen hypoxia, as it is known.

Smith's execution marked the first time that a new method was used in the US since lethal injection, now the most commonly used method, was introduced in 1982.

Officials in Alabama have called nitrogen 'effective and humane.'

Lawmakers in Ohio are already weighing a switch to nitrogen gas executions.

But those present described it as a 'horror show.'

Smith convulsed and writhed in the tight black straps of his gurney and appeared to be heaving and retching inside the mask, as his wife Deanna started to sob.

The UN's human rights chief Volker Türk called it a regretful and 'novel and untested method of suffocation.'

It 'may amount to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,' he added.

Public support for the death penalty has steadily eroded in the US for decades, over fears of botched executions, wrongful convictions, and the high share of black men who end up on death row.

Meanwhile, the number of executions has fallen. 

There were 24 executions in the US in 2023, down from the 98 in 1999, according to the Washington, DC-based Death Penalty Information Center. 

Only five states — Texas, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Alabama — executed people last year.

Most states, 29 in all, have either abolished the death penalty or paused executions by executive action.

Ohio, Nevada, and other death penalty states struggle to obtain execution drugs because European drug firms began blocking the use of their products for lethal injections.

Smith himself was set to be executed in 2022, but the lethal injection was called off at the last minute because authorities couldn't connect an IV line.

Our survey shows respondents grappling with a thorny moral question and the troubling accounts of Smith's final minutes at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore on January 25.

Support for nitrogen gas executions was higher in the South and West of the country than in the Northeast and Midwest, our poll showed.

Younger adults were more likely to oppose the method than were those aged 25 and above.

Men were keener on the nitrogen gas death sentence than were women — 44 percent of men supported it, compared to 34 percent of women.

There were also partisan differences — nearly half of Republican voters supported the method, against 35 percent of Democrats.

Following Smith's historic execution, questions have been raised over whether the untested method is a humane solution to America's issues obtaining lethal injection drugs.

Alabama's Attorney General Steve Marshall called Smith's death 'textbook' and has vowed to continue using nitrogen gas. 

Marshall said of the 165 inmates on Alabama's death row, 43 prisoners have opted to be executed via nitrogen hypoxia over lethal injection when their time comes.

'We'll definitely have more nitrogen hypoxia executions in Alabama,' he added.

Ohio, which hasn't executed an inmate since 2018, is weighing re-introducing the death penalty following the first ever use of nitrogen hypoxia in Alabama, Attorney General Dave Yost said.

'Perhaps nitrogen — widely available and easy to manufacture — can break the impasse of unavailability of drugs for lethal injection,' Yost posted on X/Twitter.

'Death row inmates are in greater danger of dying of old age than their sentence.'

Smith was convicted of the murder-for-hire of Elizabeth Sennett, a pastor's wife who was beaten and stabbed repeatedly at her home in the north of the state in 1988.

Smith was one of two men convicted in the killing. The other, John Forrest Parker, was executed in 2010.

Prosecutors said they were each paid $1,000 to kill Sennett on behalf of her pastor husband, who was deeply in debt and wanted to collect on insurance.

The husband, Charles Sennett Sr, killed himself when the investigation focused on him as a suspect, court records show.

Source: Mail Online, James Reinl, February 11, 2024



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