Friday, October 29, 2021

Oklahoma carries out execution within hours of SCOTUS decision

The 9th Execution of 2021

His arms outstretched and body bound to the execution gurney, John Marion Grant turned his head as a sedative — the first dose of his deadly drip — flowed through the IV and into his veins, reported the Washington Post.

Grant exhaled. Then, his entire body convulsed, Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy, who observed the execution on October 29, 2021at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, said at a news conference.

Grant’s body shook and jerked nearly two dozen times before vomit spurted from his mouth and spilled down his neck, Murphy said.

The 60-year-old was still alive as members of the execution team entered and wiped the sick off Grant’s face.

Minutes passed and he was unconscious by 4:15 p.m. The second and third drugs in the three-part lethal cocktail came a minute later. Another minute passed before Grant stopped breathing. He was declared dead at 4:21 p.m.

The events on Thursday, which experts called “unusual,” came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted stays of execution issued Wednesday for Grant and another inmate, Julius Jones. Jones, 41, who maintains his innocence for a 1999 murder, claiming he was framed, is scheduled for the lethal injection on Nov. 18. He has a clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday.

Grant was sentenced to death in 2000 for killing a cafeteria worker in 1998. He stabbed 58-year-old Gay Carter 16 times with a homemade shank at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy, Okla., where he was serving a 130-year sentence for numerous armed robberies, according to the AP. He had been denied clemency twice — most recently earlier this month in a 3-to-2 decision.

Grant’s reaction to the sedative midazolam is potential fodder for death penalty critics, since his execution formally ends a six-year hiatus in Oklahoma following concerns over a string of botched lethal injections.

Oklahoma turns to Supreme Court after long-delayed executions are halted again

In a statement, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said “Grant’s execution was carried out in accordance with … protocols and without complication.”

This year, more than two dozen death row inmates filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the state’s three-drug protocol for lethal injections risks causing pain and suffering, which they claim is unconstitutional. The trial, which a judge in August allowed to proceed and halted the men’s executions, is expected to begin in early 2022.

But the judge excluded Grant and five other inmates from the lawsuit because they did not choose a different method of execution. A panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit resolved Wednesday that although the inmates did not check a box specifying which method they would choose, they did specify alternative options.. The court issued Grant and Jones’s stays of execution.

Then in a 5-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court lifted the stays, allowing Grant’s execution to move forward.

Grant was escorted into the execution chamber at around 4 p.m. on Thursday. Murphy, the AP reporter who witnessed the event, wrote that he could hear Grant shouting “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” followed by profanities.

Almost immediately after receiving the sedative midazolam — the first of the three drugs administered, including vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride to stop the heart — Grant began convulsing and vomiting.

“It seemed like a long time,” Murphy said at the news conference following the execution.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center, told the AP he had “never heard of or seen” a reaction like that before.

 “That is notable and unusual,” he said.

Dunham added in a statement that Grant’s execution was a “human experiment” for the other death row inmates involved in the lawsuit over the state’s execution process. He also referenced three botched lethal injections in Oklahoma, including the executions of Clayton Lockett — who in 2014 writhed in pain for 40 minutes before he died — and Charles Warner, whose last words were “My body is on fire” after an unauthorized drug was used on him. Richard Glossip’s execution was suddenly called off in 2015 when the state again received the wrong drugs. Glossip is still alive.

A grand jury in 2016 called the state’s lethal injection process an “inexcusable failure.”

Oklahoma, which was the first to use lethal injections, is highly secretive about the process, Deborah W. Denno, a Fordham University law professor who studies the death penalty, told The Washington Post. Oklahoma officials do not divulge their protocols, the source of the lethal drugs, or how they train their staff, she said.

“They have tried to be at the forefront of different ways of executing people,” Denno added. “It says something about the state, and definitely says something about its department of corrections and its effort to be the first and try new things despite them ending in debacle.”

Dunham agrees, adding in his statement that it appears Oklahoma has not learned from past problems.

“But to say this is another botched Oklahoma execution would be inadequate,” Dunham said. “Oklahoma knew full well that this was well within the realm of possible outcomes in a midazolam execution. It didn’t care … and the Supreme Court apparently didn’t either.”

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