Oklahoma has executed its first death row inmate in six years. John Grant was executed by lethal injections on Thursday. But an eyewitness, CNN affiliate KOKH reporter Dan Snyder, said Grant convulsed and vomited during the execution process. He said the inmate thrashed on the gurney before he got the next drugs for his death.
Oklahoma has a three-drug protocol for executing inmates. The first in line is midazolam, a drug that is administered to sedate inmates before the other two are given. Midazolam was introduced when the state could not get earlier drugs that manufacturers stopped producing for executions.
Some critics said midazolam is not a painkilling anesthetic and should not be used as a lethal injection. Snyder said Grant became unconscious after being administered the drug and vomiting at around 4:15 pm on Thursday. The second and third drugs were then administered, and he was pronounced dead at 4:21 pm.
“Inmate Grant’s execution was carried out in accordance with Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ protocols and without complication,” said Oklahoma corrections spokesperson Justin Wolf.
Grant was executed a few hours after the US Supreme Court refused a plea for a stay of execution. Grant had been serving what seemed like life imprisonment for violent armed robberies at the Dick Conner Correctional Facility. But in 1998, he attacked and killed a prison employee, Gay Carter, in the prison kitchen. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2000 and sentenced to death.
After his execution on Thursday, Grant’s attorney Sarah Jernigan said her client made atonement for his crimes in prison. She said Grant killed Carter because he was not given the mental healthcare he required in prison and was driven to more crimes. She said the state deprived him of the opportunity to atone for his crimes and to access medical care as any prisoner should.
“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, more than any other client I have worked with,” Jernigan wrote. “Through all of this, John never received the mental health care he needed or deserved in prison.”
The attorney said it was unfortunate that Grant killed Carter, but that the lawyers the state got to represent him after the murder were incompetent. “When he eventually committed a violent crime, the murder of a prison worker, Oklahoma provided him with incompetent lawyers who had no business handling a case with the ultimate punishment at stake,” Jernigan wrote.