The Alabama man convicted of participating in the murder-for-hire scheme of a preacher's wife in 1988 is set to die by lethal injection on Thursday night.
A WFIN report said that 57-year-old Kenneth Eugene Smith would be put under the needle for murdering Elizabeth Sennett on March 18, 1988. Smith, along with another man, reportedly received $1,000 for his part in the crime.
The woman's husband, Pastor Charles Sennett, Sr. of Westside Church of Christ in Sheffield, ordered the hit to collect insurance money to pay off his debts.
Details of the Murder
The report bared that responders discovered the 45-year-old woman's body inside their home on Coon Dog Cemetery Road in Colbert County, Ala. The local coroner said Elizabeth bore eight stab wounds in her chest and one on both sides of the neck.
Following the discovery, Pastor Sennett reportedly committed suicide a week after the local police named him a principal suspect in his wife's murder. Subsequent investigation showed that the late pastor had a hand in the killing as the mastermind.
Issue with Smith's Death Sentence
The article noted the defense's concern over Smith's death sentence. It said the jury handed Smith a life sentence during his sentencing, but the judge elevated it to capital punishment by lethal injection.
His lawyers' appeals also centered on the problems encountered during the recent pair of lethal injections, one of which had to be canceled as the scheduled execution failed to meet the midnight deadline.
The report added that Smith's co-defendant, John Forrest Parker, was earlier put to death in 2010. Parker reportedly expressed remorse before the victim's son moments before his execution.
"I'm sorry. I don't ever expect you to forgive me. I really am sorry," WFIN quoted Parker saying.
The appellate court documents on the case revealed that Smith told investigators that he and Parker consented to carry out the hit job on Pastor Sennett's orders. Smith reportedly removed items from the couple's house to make it appear like a burglary that had gone wrong.
Court documents likewise revealed that Smith had allegedly beaten the victim without the intention of killing her. The news outlet added that the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday denied with finality Smith's plea to challenge his death sentence's constitutionality.
It also said that the judge who initially handled Smith's case imposed the life imprisonment sentence by the jury voting 10-2. However, a subsequent appeal of Smith's sentence led to its overturning in 1992.
A retrial and conviction followed in 1996 with an 11-1 vote recommending a life sentence. The judge overruled the jury's verdict and handed Smith the death sentence.
The report noted that Alabama was the last state to discard the legal practice of judicial override in 2017. It is a process that gives judges the power to overrule sentences handed by a jury. Unfortunately for Smith, the 2017 abolition of judicial override was not retroactive, so his death sentence stayed and became enforceable.
Accordingly, the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative noted how Smith would become the first prisoner in state history to be subjected to execution resulting from judicial override since its abolition.
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