Marty Roney, a longtime reporter for The Montgomery Advertiser, had witnessed two previous executions. This time, he said, the dimly lit viewing room had a strong scent of disinfectant as five journalists and Mr. Smith’s family members were led in. His job, in part, would be to keep track of the elapsed time, if he could.
The room is probably 8 by 12 [feet], with 13 folding chairs — it’s tight. There is a large glass window in front of the media room that lets you look into the death chamber. The five of us [reporters] decided to divvy up duties. … My job was, if I found the clock, I would keep the clock.
In another witness room sat two sons of the murder victim, Mike and Chuck Sennett, as well as their wives, a friend and another relative of Ms. Sennett’s.
Mike Sennett said there were also two people he did not know; he thought they were prison officials from another state. In 2010, the family attended the lethal injection execution of John Parker, who was also convicted in his mother’s murder.
We went down for the Parker execution and it was like him going to sleep. We didn’t know what to expect with this. My anxiety was just building all day long, wondering what’s going to happen.
Kim Chandler, a reporter with The Associated Press, wrote an account of what she saw when the curtains were pulled back at 7:53 p.m.
Smith, wearing a tan prison uniform, was already strapped to the gurney and draped in a white sheet. A blue-rimmed respirator mask covered his face from forehead to chin. It had a clear face shield and plastic tubing that appeared to connect through an opening to the adjoining control room.
Another media witness, Ralph Chapoco of The Alabama Reflector, wrote that Mr. Smith seemed to be trying to reassure his relatives.
From the moment the curtain opened and throughout the time that corrections staff read the death warrant, Kenneth Eugene Smith never took his eyes off his supporters or the members of his family. … He scanned their faces one by one, smiled at each of them and several times made a sign with his fingers which meant “I love you.” He would look into the eyes of one person, smile, then move onto the next person, smile and then move on to the next person.
The gas begins flowing