The State of Alabama Executed My Husband | Sojourners


The image shows six people holding up the sign language for “I love you”

Kenny Smith’s wife Deanna (center) and family sign “I love you” in January after Smith became the world’s first inmate executed by nitrogen suffocation at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala. / Photo by Lee Hedgepeth / Tread

The State of Alabama Executed My Husband

The widow of Kenneth Eugene Smith spoke with Sojourners assistant editor Josina Guess.

WE WERE MARRIED for two years. He was full of love, compassion, didn’t hold grudges or anything like that, quick to forgive, just an amazing man. Loved his family, not just us here, but his family there at Holman [Correctional Facility]. He’s not a monster. Kibby was my nickname for him: “Kenny” and my “hubby” mushed together. This doll I am holding became Kibby Bear. It’s made from his pants. One of the guys [on death row] made it and dyed it green because that’s my favorite color. It’s got a lock of Kenny’s hair in it. It helps me feel close to him.

Halfway through [one of our last] visits, they confiscated my Bible. They had let me have it before. I asked if they could provide us with one. I was told no. I brought it so we could look up verses and go over them together, like, “I am the head, not the tail. I’m above only and not below,” “I’m blessed coming in and blessed going out,” “Everything I put my hand on, whether work or play, it prospers us.” We would go through those on our hard days. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” “My name is written in the palm of his hand,” “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” We took those as our affirmations to lift each other up.

I wore the same shirt in November 2022 [when the state tried to execute Kenny before]. He was strapped down to the gurney for four hours. He mentioned that the lights above him made a cross, and he kept singing the Kari Jobe song, “I Am Not Alone.” I can’t even listen to the song. It just hurt too much. I wasn’t going to wear that shirt. But as I looked at it, I needed — we needed — that reminder that we’re still not alone. God’s still with us. He’s still in control.

Read the Full Article

The image shows the cover of Sojourners' May 2024 issue, which depicts a priest with mushrooms growing out of their head
You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $3.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Deanna Smith is the widow of Kenneth Eugene Smith, executed by the state of Alabama in January 2024.