Oklahoma set to resume lethal injections after 6-year pause

US Supreme Court lifts stay on executions in state halted by drug mix-ups and a botched lethal injection.

Oklahoma had explored other execution methods, but will use the three-drug lethal injection protocol despite previous problems [File: Eric Risberg/AP Photo]

A 60-year-old Oklahoma man who stabbed a prison cafeteria worker to death in 1998 is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Thursday in the state’s first attempt to administer the death penalty since a series of flawed executions more than six years ago.

The state moved forward with John Marion Grant’s lethal injection after the US Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, lifted stays of execution that were put in place on Wednesday for Grant and another death row inmate, Julius Jones, by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Grant was serving a 130-year prison sentence for several armed robberies at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy when witnesses said he dragged prison cafeteria worker Gay Carter, 58, into a mop closet and stabbed her 16 times with a homemade shank. He was sentenced to die in 1999.

The state’s Pardon and Parole Board twice denied Grant’s request for clemency, including a 3-2 vote this month to reject a recommendation that his life be spared.

Oklahoma has historically had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, but a series of problematic lethal injections in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. Richard Glossip was just hours away from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realised they received the wrong lethal drug. It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

This undated photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows John Marion Grant scheduled to be executed October 28, 2021 [File: Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP]

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

While the moratorium was in place, Oklahoma moved ahead with plans to use nitrogen gas to execute inmates, but ultimately scrapped that idea and announced last year that it planned to resume executions using the same three-drug lethal injection protocol that was used during the flawed executions. The three drugs are: midazolam, a sedative, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Oklahoma prison officials recently announced that they have confirmed a source to supply all the drugs needed for seven executions that are scheduled to take place through March.

“Extensive validations and redundancies have been implemented since the last execution in order to ensure that the process works as intended,” the Department of Corrections said in a statement.

More than two dozen Oklahoma death row inmates are part of a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocols, arguing that the three-drug method risks causing unconstitutional pain and suffering. A trial is set for early next year.

Grant and five other death row inmates were dismissed from the lawsuit after none of them selected an alternate method of execution, which a federal judge said was necessary. But a three-member panel of the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the inmates did identify alternative methods of execution, even if they did not specifically check a box designating which technique they would use. The panel had granted stays of execution on Wednesday for Grant and Jones, whose lethal injection is set for November 18.

A law in South Carolina allows condemned inmates to choose between the electric chair or a newly formed firing squad [File: Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP]

Grant and his lawyers have not denied that he killed Carter, but argued that key facts about the crime and Grant’s troubled childhood were never presented to the jury. They maintain that Grant developed deep feelings for Carter and was upset when she fired him after he got in a fight with another kitchen worker.

“Jurors never heard that Mr. Grant killed Ms Gay Carter while in the heat of passion and despair over the abrupt end of the deepest and most important adult relationship of his life,” his lawyers wrote in his clemency application.

Carter’s daughter, Pam Carter, who also worked at the prison and was there the day her mother was killed, rejected the idea that her mother and Grant had anything more than a professional relationship and urged state officials to move forward with the execution.

“I understand he’s trying to save his life, but you keep victimising my mother with these stupid allegations,” she told the Pardon and Parole Board this month. “My mother was vivacious. She was friendly. She didn’t meet a stranger. She treated her workers just as you would on a job on the outside. For someone to take advantage of that is just heinous.”

Source: AP