Vomiting, convulsions as convicted murderer put to death in US

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 29 2021 07:13 AM

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary is seen in McAlester, Oklahoma September 30, 2015. Nick Oxford, Reuters/file
The Oklahoma State Penitentiary is seen in McAlester, Oklahoma September 30, 2015. Nick Oxford, Reuters/file

A convicted murderer vomited and experienced convulsions as he was executed by lethal injection in the US state of Oklahoma on Thursday, witnesses said.

John Grant, 60, was the first inmate to be put to death in Oklahoma since a series of botched executions led to a moratorium on capital punishment in the state.

Grant, who is Black, was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of a white prison cafeteria worker, Gay Carter.

His execution had been put on hold by a lower court because of concerns about the drug cocktail being used to carry out the execution, but the conservative-leaning Supreme Court lifted the last-minute stay and allowed it to go ahead.

Journalists who witnessed the execution said at a press conference that Grant had vomited and experienced full body convulsions about two dozen times before he was pronounced dead.

A federal appeals court stayed Grant's execution on Wednesday over a challenge to the lethal cocktail used to put inmates to death in the Midwestern state.

Attorneys for Grant argued that use of the sedative midazolam would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating his constitutional rights.

Midazolam was identified as a potential factor in a series of botched executions in Oklahoma, the last of which was carried out in 2015.

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 put executions on hold in the state pending a ruling in the case.

The Oklahoma attorney general's office asked the Supreme Court to vacate the stay and the nation's highest court did so just hours ahead of Grant's scheduled execution, with just the three liberal justices objecting.

Grant "became a human experiment for the other death-row prisoners' challenge to Oklahoma's execution process," Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told AFP.

"Executions like this provide death-penalty opponents with further evidence that states who are in a rush to kill simply cannot be trusted with the death penalty," he said, calling the Supreme Court's decision to vacate the stay "appalling."

- 'Full responsibility' -

Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer executed in Oklahoma in April 2014, took more than 40 minutes to die after a drug was injected into muscle tissue instead of his bloodstream.

The wrong drug was used in the execution of Charles Warner the following year and another execution was called off at the last minute when it was discovered that the wrong drug was to have been used again.

Sarah Jernigan, Grant's attorney, said her client had taken "full responsibility for the murder of Gay Carter, and he spent his years on death row trying to understand and atone for his actions."

"John never received the mental health care he needed or deserved in prison," Jernigan said. 

"And 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," she said.

Another Oklahoma death row inmate, Julius Jones, a 41-year-old African American man, is scheduled to be executed on November 18 for the 1999 shooting of a white businessman.

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.

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