Oklahoma Pays Doctor $15K to Verify Executed Inmate's Death

Detail emerged in a court hearing last week
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2022 3:07 PM CST
Doctor Present at Oklahoma Executions Is Paid $15K Each Time
This Oct. 9, 2014, file photo shows the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

(Newser) – A financial detail bubbled to the surface in a hearing last week in Oklahoma related to two inmates seeking stays of execution. Lawyers for Donald A. Grant and Gilbert Ray Postelle, who are set to be put to death Jan. 27 and Feb. 17, respectively, were arguing the sedative used by state corrections officials doesn't do the job properly. They further alleged the use of midazolam caused John Marion Grant (no relation to Donald Grant) to suffocate to death on his own vomit in his October execution. The judge heard about the various steps a doctor took to verify John Grant was unconscious, including doing a sternum and eyelid check. It turns out he was paid $15,000 to do so.

The Oklahoman reports Justin Farris, the head of operations at the Oklahoma Corrections Department, testified that a doctor he recruited is paid $15,000 per execution to carry out the consciousness check and confirm death (the doctor does not administer the drugs). In the case of John Grant, the doctor also wiped vomit from the man's face. The AP reports US District Judge Stephen Friot on Friday declined to temporarily halt the executions, finding Grant and Postelle were unlikely to successfully argue that Oklahoma's lethal injection method could expose them to extreme pain and suffering. The court heard that John Grant was seen hastily eating potato chips and a 2 liter bottle of Pibb Xtra just 45 minutes before the execution.

Friot wrote that while "restrained in a supine position on the gurney, Grant’s gastric contents flowed toward his head and out of his mouth." Because of his position, "Grant’s airway was obstructed by his tongue, causing him to noticeably struggle to breathe while, at essentially the same time, regurgitating." But "the important point here is that all of this occurred while Grant was unconscious and insensate to pain as a result of the administration of a massive dose of midazolam."

(Read more Oklahoma stories.)

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