“I know this sounds dramatic, but it makes me feel sick,” said Kylie George, one of the protesters.
The death penalty protesters, including members of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, argued that executions are “unjust” and “inhumane” on Thursday.
Grant had been sitting on death row for 15 years for the killing of two Del City hotel workers in 2001. During his clemency hearing in November 2021, his attorneys argued he suffers from serious mental illnesses that he’s never been treated for.
“Some executions really call our attention to injustice. Donald Grant is an African-American and mentally ill,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, another protester. “He had a violent childhood. Yes, he did kill some people, but the death penalty is not justified in this case. Most of us think he should be in a mental institution, perhaps locked incarcerated in a mental institution, but he does not deserve to die.”
Batchelder’s feelings appeared to be shared by many, if not all, of the other protesters.
“I do feel like our focus needs to be less on executing our mentally ill residents and actually trying to help them and give them the proper care,” said Natasha Normand.
In an email to KFOR, the Oklahoma Attorney General Office explained the current guidelines about the death penalty and mental health.
“The State of Oklahoma cannot execute an individual who is incompetent to be executed. The standard for incompetency can be found in case law from the US Supreme Court as well as the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The standard is also set forth in Title 22, Section 1007 of the Oklahoma statutes. If an inmate has a mental illness that does not render him/her to be incompetent to be executed, the illness may be presented for consideration as mitigation for the crime.” – Madelyn Sheriff, Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office Press Secretary.MADELYN SHERIFF, PRESS SECRETARY, OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE
A federal hearing to determine the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol is scheduled for Feb. 28. The lawsuit claims the state’s injection protocol violates the Eighth Amendment, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.”