At Oklahoma Execution, a Rare Occurrence

John Marion Grant vomited, convulsed as he was being put to death
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 29, 2021 12:03 AM CDT
One Day After Stay of Execution, He Was Put to Death
This undated photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows John Marion Grant.   (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)

Oklahoma administered the death penalty Thursday on a man who convulsed and vomited as he was executed for the 1998 slaying of a prison cafeteria worker, ending a six-year execution moratorium brought on by concerns over its execution methods, the AP reports. John Marion Grant, 60, who was strapped to a gurney inside the execution chamber, began convulsing and vomiting after the first drug, the sedative midazolam, was administered. Several minutes later, two members of the execution team wiped the vomit from his face and neck. He was declared unconscious about 15 minutes after the first of three drugs was administered and declared dead about six minutes after that, at 4:21pm.

Someone vomiting while being executed is rare, according to observers. "I’ve never heard of or seen that," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center. "That is notable and unusual." Michael Graczyk, a retired AP reporter who still covers executions for the organization on a freelance basis, has witnessed the death penalty being carried out about 450 times. He said Thursday he could only recall one instance of someone vomiting while being put to death. The Oklahoma attorney general and governor did not respond to questions about Grant's reactions to the drugs.

In fact, Department of Corrections spokesman Justin Wolf said by email that the execution "was carried out in accordance with Oklahoma Department of Corrections' protocols and without complication." An attorney for some of the Oklahoma death row inmates who are challenging the state's lethal injection protocols in a lawsuit says eyewitness accounts of Grant's lethal injection show Oklahoma's death penalty protocol isn't working as it was designed. "This is why the US Supreme Court should not have lifted the stay," he said in a statement. "There should be no more executions in Oklahoma until we go (to) trial in February to address the state’s problematic lethal injection protocol."

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Grant was the first person in Oklahoma to be executed since a series of flawed lethal injections in 2014 and 2015. He was serving a 130-year prison sentence for several armed robberies when witnesses say he dragged prison cafeteria worker Gay Carter into a mop closet and stabbed her 16 times with a homemade shank. He was sentenced to die in 1999. Oklahoma moved forward with the 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. (More Oklahoma stories.)

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