Botched execution fuels call to end death penalty

By Janet Post
November 15, 2021

After a six-year “pause” in executions, the result of a series of botched death-house procedures, including 43 minutes of writhing agony for Clayton Lockett in 2014, Oklahoma authorities renewed executions Oct. 28. And once again it was an inhumane disaster, as 60-year-old John Marion Grant suffered visibly before he died during a botched execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

With Grant’s body bound to the execution gurney, the sedative midazolam, the first drug in the state’s three-drug protocol — the same one used in 2014 — was injected. “Almost immediately after the drug was administered, Grant began convulsing, so much so that his entire upper back repeatedly lifted off the gurney,” reported Dan Snyder, an eyewitness as news anchor for Fox 25-TV.

“As the convulsions continued, Grant then began to vomit. Multiple times over the course of the next few minutes medical staff entered the death chamber to wipe away and remove vomit from the still-breathing Grant,” Snyder said. Additional witnesses say Grant convulsed over two dozen times.

It took 15 minutes for Grant to finally be declared unconscious, press reports said. He was then injected with vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the body, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Grant was declared dead six minutes later.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections issued a statement saying Grant’s execution was carried out “without complication.” They insist they will continue to conduct executions the same way. Oklahoma Corrections Director Scott Crow said death-row inmate Julius Jones will be executed as planned on Nov. 18.

“If everything went according to protocol and the result was significant convulsions and vomiting, then that is very powerful evidence that the protocol is unconstitutional,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

After the torturous execution of Lockett in 2014, Oklahoma officials went ahead the next year with the execution of Charles Warner, who cried out that his body was on “fire” while being injected with the drugs. Then Richard Glossip had his execution called off because it was found that the prison was using the wrong drugs. It came out that Warner had been killed with those same ones. The outcry over these outrages led to the “pause” in executions.

Scientific studies have shown that when midazolam is prepared by dissolving it in an acidic solution, as is the case in executions, it destroys lung tissue.

Grant had been sentenced to death in 1999 for stabbing to death a prison cafeteria worker, Gay Carter, a year earlier. He was already serving a 130-year sentence for armed robberies.

Sarah Jernigan, Grant’s lawyer, said he had never received any mental health care in prison. In his youth, Oklahoma “dumped John on the streets with no skills and no support for the mental illness that was exacerbated by years of being both the victim of and witness to beatings, rapes and extended periods in solitary confinement,” she said. Facts about Grant’s abuse in prison and on the street were not allowed to be presented to the jury.

Protesters against Grant’s killing demonstrated outside Gov. Kevin Stitt’s mansion in Oklahoma City and at the penitentiary on the day of the execution. “Simply put, these executions are not justice — they only perpetuate a cycle of pain and trauma,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma in a statement.

“The death penalty is used in the U.S. to terrorize and intimidate working people,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for district attorney in Philadelphia, told the Militant. “The capitalist ruling families use their entire criminal ‘justice’ system — their plea-bargain-enforced convictions, their prisons and their death penalty — to maintain their rule.”