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Oklahoma kills John Marion Grant as he writhes and vomits in 1st execution since 2015

Justin Wolf, director of communications for the Department of Corrections, is notified of the death of John Grant. Shortly after, Wolf announced Grant's time of death as 4:21 p.m.
Justin Wolf, director of communications for the Department of Corrections, is notified of the death of John Grant. Shortly after, Wolf announced Grant's time of death as 4:21 p.m.

The state of Oklahoma executed 60-year-old John Marion Grant on Thursday at the state prison in McAlester.

Department of Corrections officials announced his death by lethal injection at 4:21 p.m. DOC said in a statement there were no complications, but media witness Sean Murphy of the Associated Press whose seen 14 executions in his time as a reporter said the execution was brutal and disturbing.

"I've never seen an inmate vomit during the procedure," said Murphy. "After the first drug began, he convulsed about two dozen times and started vomiting. Obviously he's lying on his back trying to breathe and there's a large amount of vomit on his face and mouth."

Murphy said there was so much vomit that two members of the execution team had to enter the death chamber to wipe Grant's face.

"He did continue to convulse several times after that and vomited more."

Shortly after, an official did a sternum rub to check for consciousness. Murphy said Grant appeared to stop breathing, though his face was turned away from witnesses and he was wearing glasses.

Oklahoma's lethal injection drugs have been in question since 2014 when the state botched the execution of Clayton Lockett. Little is known about the drugs it currently has on hand as the state says no records exist.

In a fact sheet provided by DOC, the execution protocol is listed as consisting of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride.

A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma's lethal injection protocols is set for February 2022. Grant was a plaintiff in that lawsuit but was executed anyway because federal judge Stephen P. Friot kicked him out of the lawsuit in August.

Stephen P. Friot

Friot kicked Grant and others out of the lawsuit because they did not choose an alternative method for their deaths as he ordered.

Grant was reinstated this month to the lawsuit by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit also stayed his execution Wednesday, but the Supreme Court of the United States vacated the stay Thursday at Attorney General John O'Connor's request.

An attorney on the lethal injection lawsuit, federal public defender Dale Baich, said Oklahoma should cease executions for now.

"There should be no more executions until we go to trial in February," said Baich.

Grant, a Black man, was born in Ada. The sixth of nine children, he grew up in poverty and was in and out of state custody for most of his life.

John Marion Grant (right) as a child
John Marion Grant (right) as a child

He was convicted of murder after a problematic trialfor the 1998 stabbing of prison employee Gay Carter.

Grant's lawyer, Sarah Jernigan, said in a statement she hopes Grant is resting easier now.

"I pray John Grant is at peace now, and I pray his death brings peace and closure to Ms. Carter's family."

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.
Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.