OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The 10th Circuit of Appeals denied a motion from Oklahoma death row inmates, including Julius Jones, asking that executions be stayed until the conclusion of a court case that challenges the legality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection cocktail.
Jones, Donald Anthony Grant, Gilbert Ray Postelle and Wade Lay, all of whom have scheduled execution dates, as well as 30 other death row inmates, were plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
They sought a preliminary injunction on executions until a ruling is issued in a trial set for February that concerns whether the three-drug cocktail the State uses for lethal injections is constitutional.
The lawsuit referred to the State’s drug protocol as “human experimentation.”
The Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs’ motion.
“The district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding Appellants were unlikely to prevail on the merits of their claims. We therefore affirm its order denying a preliminary injunction,” the Appeals Court’s ruling states.
Jones is set to be the second person executed in Oklahoma on Thursday, Nov. 18, following the end of a moratorium on executions that lasted six years. Jones was convicted in 2002 for the July 1999 murder of Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman.
However, Jones has maintained his innocence, saying he was failed by his defense team.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency for Jones on Nov. 2. Gov. Kevin Stitt has not yet announced whether he will commute Jones’ death sentence.
John Grant was the first Oklahoma death row inmate executed since the moratorium ended.
Grant was executed on Oct. 28 for the 1998 murder of Gay Carter, who was the kitchen supervisor at the Dick Conner Correctional Center, where Grant was incarcerated for robbery convictions. He stabbed her with a shank 16 times.
The moratorium was implemented in 2015 after lethal injections using a controversial three-drug cocktail caused two death row inmates to suffer excruciating pain during the execution.
The drug cocktail consists of midazolam, a sedative, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
A KFOR article from April 29, 2015, says the state began using midazolam in their execution cocktail after pharmaceutical companies refused to provide pentobarbital, the sedatives formerly used to enforce the death penalty.
Concerns about Oklahoma’s execution cocktail arose after the 2014 execution of Lockett, who was sentenced to death for murdering 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in 1999.
The combination of execution drugs administered to Lockett had never been used before. The procedure went awry as Lockett awoke from his unconscious state and twitched and convulsed on the table.
“The doctor checked the IV and reported the blood vein had collapsed, and the drugs had either absorbed into tissue, leaked out or both,” according to a previously released timeline.
Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.
The execution of Charles Warner in 2015 also had complications that caused immense pain.
The three-drug cocktail was administered to Warner, who raped and murdered 11-month-old Adrianna Walker in 1997.
Warner was heard saying, “It feels like acid,” and “My body is on fire,” during the execution.
An autopsy report said officials used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride to kill Warner.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 29, 2015, that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Witnesses to Grant’s execution say he convulsed about two-dozen times and vomited following the injection of midazolam. He continued breathing until after the second drug was administered.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals placed a partial stay on Grant’s and Jones’ executions on Oct. 27. The death row inmates’ legal teams argued to the Court of Appeals that they had an agreement with former Attorney General Hunter that no executions would take place for the time being because of an upcoming trial set for February, which challenges whether Oklahoma’s execution protocol, the three-drug cocktail, is legal.
However, the State of Oklahoma appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the High Court to vacate the stays of execution. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State. Grant was executed two hours later.