John Grant was the first person to be executed in Oklahoma six years after the state screwed up a series of lethal injections.
A man convicted of murder in the United States experienced seizures and vomited when he was executed by lethal injection in Oklahoma, where the practice is being challenged in court.
John Grant, 60, was the first inmate to be executed in Oklahoma in six years following a series of failed executions, possibly related to the use of the sedative midazolam, which led to a temporary moratorium on capital punishment in the state.
Grant, a black man, was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of a white prison cafeteria worker, Gay Carter.
Grant’s lawyers had argued that the use of midazolam during the execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating his constitutional rights.
The Oklahoma attorney general’s office, however, asked the Supreme Court to overturn the suspensions that a lower court had imposed on the execution. The nation’s highest court did so hours before Grant’s scheduled execution on Thursday, to the objection of the three liberal justices.
Journalists who witnessed the execution said at a press conference that Grant had vomited and experienced full-body seizures about two dozen times before being pronounced dead. The reaction started after midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug process, was injected.
Two members of the execution team wiped vomit from Grant’s face and neck shortly after. He was declared unconscious about 15 minutes after receiving the midazolam and pronounced dead six minutes later.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center, told The Associated Press news agency that he had “never heard or seen” the reactions reported by observers.
“That is remarkable and unusual,” he said.
Michael Graczyk, a retired AP reporter who has witnessed around 450 executions, told the news agency that he could only recall one case of a person vomiting while being killed.
Still, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Thursday that Grant’s execution went as planned.
“The execution of inmate Grant was carried out in accordance with Oklahoma Department of Corrections protocols and without complications,” Communications Director Justin Wolf said in a statement.
A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols is scheduled to go to trial in February 2022, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed executions in the state pending a ruling in the case.
Dale Baich, an attorney for some of those sentenced to death in that lawsuit, said eyewitness accounts of Grant’s lethal injection show that Oklahoma’s death penalty protocol is not working as designed.
“That is why the US Supreme Court should not have lifted the suspension,” Baich said in a statement.
“There should be no more executions in Oklahoma until we leave [to] in February to address the state’s troublesome lethal injection protocol. “
Oklahoma had one of the busiest death chambers in the country until problems in 2014 and 2015 forced a stay of executions.
Richard Glossip was just hours away from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug.
It later emerged that the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.
The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a stretcher before dying within 43 minutes of his lethal injection.
Another inmate on death row in Oklahoma, Julius Jones, a 41-year-old black man, is scheduled to be executed on November 18 for the murder of a white businessman in 1999.
Jones has consistently proclaimed his innocence and his case has attracted the attention of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who have said he was wrongly convicted.