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Oklahoma Department of Corrections director claims witnesses gave 'embellished' account of execution

State of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow

The head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections held a news conference to push back against the account of Thursday’s execution given by journalists who were in the death chamber.

“There's a lot of information that I believe is – the basis for the information is correct, but the actual – some of the information is either embellished or is not exactly on point,” said DOC Director Scott Crow.

Crow said John Marion Grant was increasingly agitated leading up to his execution, and was swearing at prison staff before he was taken to die by lethal injection. Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy said Grant let out a stream of profanities before the execution began, convulsed about two dozen times after the sedative midazolam – the first of three drugs in the state’s protocol – was administered, then started vomiting.

Murphy said in more than a dozen executions, he had not seen the dying person vomit.

Crow said Grant was “dry heaving” before he started “regurgitating,” and he checked with the on-site doctor after that happened.

“And he advised me that regurgitation is not a completely uncommon instance or occurrence with someone that's undergoing sedation,” Crow said.

Murphy said two members of the execution team then came in to wipe Grant’s face, after which he convulsed several more times and vomited more.

Crow said Grant did convulse at some point, but he believes it happened less than 10 times. Crow is also standing by DOC’s statement that Grant’s sentence was carried out “without complication.”

“And the basis for that is, is at no point through the protocol or administering the protocol were there ever any delays or any complications that prevented the protocol from being completed,” Crow said.

Crow said he intends to continue carrying out executions “humanely and efficiently.” The next scheduled execution is Julius Jones’ on Nov. 18.

Earlier Friday, Democratic candidate for governor Joy Hofmeister released a statement describing Grant’s execution as “botched” and calling for Gov. Kevin Stitt to suspend future ones.

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.