Oklahoma has come under heavy criticism after witnesses to the state’s first judicial assassination in six years described gruesome scenes of the dying prisoner convulsing and vomiting as he received the lethal injections.
John Grant, 60, was pronounced dead at 4:21 p.m. Thursday at McAlester State Penitentiary after being injected with a triple cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The correctional service later said the murder was “according to protocol and uncomplicated.”
But eyewitness accounts from reporters in McAlester’s supposedly state-of-the-art death chamber gave a very different story. Dan Snyder, an Oklahoma Fox 25 television presenter, said events had taken a dramatic turn for the worse the moment the prisoner was injected with the prisoner’s first drug, the sedative midazolam.
“Almost immediately after the medication was administered, Grant began to have convulsions, so much so that his entire upper back was lifted off the stretcher several times,” Snyder reported. “As the convulsions continued, Grant then began to vomit. Several times over the next few minutes, medics entered the death chamber to wipe up and remove the vomit from the still breathing Grant.
It took 15 minutes for Grant to be declared unconscious by medical staff, after which vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the body, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart, were administered.
Sur Twitter, Snyder given his response to the state’s official claim that everything went as planned. “As a witness to the execution who was in the room, I will say this: Repeated convulsions and profuse vomiting for almost 15 minutes does not appear to be ‘uncomplicated.’ “
Accounts of the botched execution of Grant, who was put to death for the 1998 murder of a prison cafeteria worker while already serving a sentence for armed robbery, will be of great embarrassment to the Minister. ‘Oklahoma. No judicial assassinations have taken place in the state since 2015 after a series of botched procedures raised widespread alarm and forced authorities to review their use of lethal injection drugs.
In 2018, state officials went so far as to announce that they would completely renounce lethal injections, due to the protocol’s lack of transparency and the inhumane executions that had taken place. But in August, the state overturned the decision, saying it would resume executions without giving an explanation for the turnaround or revealing critical details about how it intended to carry out the killings.
The state’s six-year hiatus was prompted in part by the 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett, who twisted and moaned on the stretcher for 43 minutes before being pronounced dead after the intravenous line by which the lethal drugs were administered was inserted incorrectly. The gruesome descriptions of his death by eyewitnesses in the Guardian and elsewhere have sparked nationwide revulsion.
The following year, the state used the wrong medicine to kill Charles Warner. Following these botched procedures, a bipartisan commission examined the state’s death penalty system and issued a very critical report calling for an extension of the moratorium on capital punishment.
Maya Foa, co-executive director of human rights group Reprieve US, said Grant had suffered “the same horrible fate as Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner”. The disturbing scenes had occurred in the wake of the state’s return to failed methods of lethal injections “under cover of secrecy.”
Foa added that “these drugs were never intended for capital punishment, and it’s no wonder the healthcare companies that make them universally and publicly oppose their misuse in executions. What happened yesterday shows that the lethal injection is irreparable.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Associated Press that Grant’s seizures and vomiting were extremely rare. “I have never heard of or seen this. It is remarkable and unusual.
Grant’s execution was authorized Thursday after the United States Supreme Court voted five to three, with all three Liberal justices dissenting, to allow the judicial execution to continue. It is not known whether descriptions of his death will affect future planned executions in the state.
Oklahoma has an ambitious schedule of planned executions, six of which are expected to take place by the end of March.