'A Human Experiment': John Marion Grant Convulsed, Vomited at Oklahoma Execution

Activists hold an anti-death penalty protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on January 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

'A Human Experiment': John Marion Grant Convulsed, Vomited at Oklahoma Execution

"Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol causes immense suffering," said anti-death penalty campaigner Sister Helen Prejean. "This will not be covered up."

An execution by the state of Oklahoma which sent a death row inmate into convulsions and caused him to vomit in the last moments of his life was "exactly what [authorities] intended," said death penalty opponents on Friday.

"There should be no more executions in Oklahoma until we go trial in February to address the state's problematic lethal injection protocol."

After a six-year pause in state-sponsored killings, Oklahoma carried out the execution of John Marion Grant on Thursday using the same three drugs that were used in the violent executions of Clayton Lockett in 2014 and Charles Warner in 2015--both of which drew national attention and condemnation regarding the state's execution protocols.
Grant convulsed about two dozen times, according to the Associated Press, after he was injected with the sedative midazolam. He then began vomiting before being injected with vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, to stop his heart.
The state Department of Corrections reported that the execution went ahead "without complication."
"Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol causes immense suffering," said anti-death penalty campaigner Sister Helen Prejean. "This will not be covered up."
The execution was described by AP reporter Sean Murphy:
In 2014, the same three-drug cocktail took 43 minutes to kill Lockett, who writhed in pain during his execution. The following year, Warner cried out that his body was "on fire" after being injected with the lethal drugs.
Grant was killed hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift a stay of execution in his case and that of another inmate, Julius Jones, who is scheduled to be killed November 18.
In August, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot suggested in a ruling that Oklahoma's use of the lethal drugs that the deaths of plaintiffs including Grant could be used as evidence in an upcoming trial regarding the state's execution protocol and whether it violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
The judge cleared the way for Grant to be used as "a human experiment," Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Thursday.

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"Oklahoma had botched its last three execution attempts before its six-year execution pause, but apparently learned nothing from that experience," said Dunham. "But to say this is another botched Oklahoma execution would be inadequate. Oklahoma knew full well that this was well within the realm of possible outcomes in a midazolam execution. It didn't care... and the Supreme Court apparently didn't either."
Friot removed Grant and Jones as a plaintiffs in the court case, saying they had failed to suggest an alternative method of execution, which the Supreme Court requires. The two men had listed potential alternative methods, but declined to select their preferred method.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of execution in the cases on Wednesday, saying they were not required to "check a box" regarding the method that would be used in their own killings, but the Supreme Court lifted the stay.
Dale Baich, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case Grant was removed from, said the convulsions and vomiting witnessed during the execution demonstrated that the state's lethal injection protocol is not working "as it was designed to."
"This is why the Tenth Circuit stayed John Grant's execution and this is why the U.S. Supreme Court should not have lifted the stay," said Baich. "There should be no more executions in Oklahoma until we go trial in February to address the state's problematic lethal injection protocol."

"Oklahoma knew full well that this was well within the realm of possible outcomes in a midazolam execution. It didn't care... and the Supreme Court apparently didn't either."

In Grant's case for clemency, his lawyers detailed the severe neglect and abuse he suffered as a child--including at the hands of the state of Oklahoma when he was sent to juvenile institutions.
Grant began stealing food and clothing for himself and his siblings at the age of nine, the result of neglect. He was removed from his home at the age of 12 and sent to the first of several state-run homes for boys.
National news reports regarding the conditions at Oklahoma's juvenile detention facilities detailed solitary confinement, "whippings, rapes, and assaults," Grant's lawyers wrote. "Sadly, the years Mr. Grant spent at these State-run juvenile homes were at the very height of this abuse."
"Oklahoma ultimately dumped John on the streets with no skills and no support for the mental illness that was exacerbated by years of being both the victim of and witness to beatings, rapes, and extended periods in solitary confinement, amongst other abuses," said Sarah Jernigan, one of Grant's lawyers. "When he committed a robbery at age 17, Oklahoma sent him to an adult prison, subjecting him to further victimization... Through all of this, John never received the mental health care he needed or deserved in prison."

Grant was "failed...at every stage of his life, and then we took that from him as well," tweeted journalist Jamie A. Hughes.

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