Red flags were raised after John Marion Grant’s (60) lethal injection execution produced queer results which were not expected, as noted by witnesses present. The death row prisoner was executed on Thursday in Oklahoma, and this was the first capital punishment after a six-year hiatus of judicial killings.
Grant was imprisoned for a series of armed robberies and was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of a prison cafeteria worker. According to his attorneys, “John Grant took full responsibility for the murder of Gay Carter, and he spent his years on death row trying to understand and atone for his actions” [Source].
The now-deceased Grant “was pronounced dead at 4.21 pm on Thursday at McAlester state penitentiary after he was injected with a triple cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride”. This is an injection used by the Department of Corrections to carry out such executions as prescribed by the judicial system. His execution was approved on Thursday by voting in the Supreme court, in which a five to three result supported the decision to kill him.
After Grant’s execution, the department of correction commented on the killing and said it had gone “in accordance with protocols and without complication.” But reports from witnesses at McAlester’s death chamber had parallel views on the capital punishment act.
According to Dan Snyder, an anchor at the Oklahoma TV Channel Fox 25, the procedure went off the rails from what was expected. Synder said, “Almost immediately after the drug was administered, Grant began convulsing, so much that his entire upper back repeatedly lifted off the gurney.”
He added that “As the convulsions continued, Grant then began to vomit. Multiple times throughout the next few minutes, medical staff entered the death chamber to wipe away and remove vomit from the still-breathing Grant”. Such a description shows a painful moment that the condemned prisoner went through after being given a lethal injection.
A breakdown of the incident revealed that Grant was declared by medical staff to be unconscious after 15 minutes of intense pain, after which vecuronium bromide, which is meant to paralyze the body, and potassium, which stops the heart, had been administered to him [Source].
Synder reacted to the corrections department’s claim that the execution was flawless. He tweeted that “As a witness to the execution who was in the room, I’ll say this: repeated convulsions and extensive vomiting for nearly 15 minutes would not seem to be ‘without complication.’”
“He began convulsing about two-dozen times, full-body convulsions and began to vomit, which covered his face and began to run down his neck and the side of his face,” as described by Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy who was a witness at the execution.
Such comments are projected to taint Oklahoma’s conduction of capital punishment. Because of similar incidents, the state had suspended executions since 2015 after a series of botched executions had happened. This called for the intervention of authorities in questioning the lethal injection drugs used.
In 2018, Oklahoma state officials decided to remove lethal injections completely because the protocol used was unclear, and it seemed like an inhumane way to kill someone. This decision was also necessitated by Clayton Lockett’s execution in 2014, in which he moaned on the gurney while twisting and turning for about 43 minutes before being declared dead. It was then discovered that the intravenous line used to administer the lethal drugs was improperly inserted. More unfortunate incidents followed after a wrong drug was used to execute Charles Warner. Because of all these botched executions, authorities had to suspend killing for a significant amount of time.
But they changed this decision due to unclear reasons and never explained why lethal injections were accepted back into the judicial system. For Maya Foa, executive director of the human rights group Reprieve US, Grant was through the “same horrifying fate as Clayton Lockett and Charles,” and he despised the state for going back to the flawed lethal injections “under cover of secrecy.”
He explained that “these drugs were intended for capital punishment, and it is little wonder that the healthcare companies that make them universally and publicly oppose their misuse in executions.”
In reference to the killing of Grant, he said, “What happened yesterday shows lethal injection is broken beyond repair.”
Another witness, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, cited that it was rare to see a prisoner convulsing and vomiting like Grant. Dunham said, “I’ve never heard of or seen that. That is notable and unusual.”
Reports reveal that Oklahoma plans to carry out various execution in the coming weeks, and about six executions are expected to be done by the end of March. However, it waits to be seen whether Grant’s execution will sway the state officials’ plans of a series of executions.