Reactions to State of Oklahoma’s execution of John Grant by lethal injection, the first since 2015

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Reactions are coming in after death row inmate John Grant was executed at 4:21 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28– Oklahoma’s first execution since a moratorium was placed on executions in 2015 after two executions went awry, causing immense pain to the inmates being put to death.

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John Grant

The Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of Oklahoma City, issued the following statement, sharply criticizing Gov. Kevin Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor for hurrying to resume executions.

“The unnecessary rush to restart executions in Oklahoma by the governor and attorney general is concerning and disappointing. Throughout our nation’s history we have justified the killing or mistreatment of our neighbors by lessoning their value as human beings – whether it is the unborn, aged, native populations, African Americans or those imprisoned. All human life is sacred. No matter how serious the crime committed, we do not forfeit the inherent dignity bestowed upon us by our Creator. There are other ways to administer just punishment without resorting to lethal measures. May God guide us as we work to end the use of the death penalty and build a society that truly chooses life in all situations. May He bring comfort to the family and friends of Gay Carter, and have mercy on the soul of John Grant.”

THE REV. PAUL S. COAKLEY, ARCHBISHOP OF OKLAHOMA CITY

Grant was executed 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.

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Gay Carter

Pamela Gay Carter, Gay Carter’s daughter, issued the following statement after the execution:

“At least now we are starting to get justice for our loved ones. The death penalty is about protecting any potential future victims. Even after Grant was removed from society, he committed an act of violence that took an innocent life. I pray that justice prevails for the other victims’ loved ones. My heart and prayers go out to you all. Stay strong.”

PAMELA GAY CARTER

Sarah Jernigan, Grant’s attorney, issued the following statement after her client was executed:

“John Grant took full responsibility for the murder of Gay Carter, and he spent his years on death row trying to understand and atone for his actions, more than any other client I have worked with.

However, we must not forget Oklahoma’s hand in this tragic story. When John stole to feed and clothe himself and his siblings, Oklahoma labeled him a delinquent instead of a desperate and traumatized child left to fend for himself. John wasn’t even a teenager yet when Oklahoma sent him to the first of several state-run youth detention facilities. ‘Oklahoma Shame’ would later be the label affixed to the horrors that occurred inside the walls of these facilities during John’s time there, after national investigations uncovered years of institutional abuse. John’s trauma from these facilities was so deep that he was simply unable to speak about it; what we learned of the myriad abuses he endured comes from others.

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. When he committed a robbery at age seventeen, Oklahoma sent him to an adult prison, subjecting him to further victimization, as later documented in a class-action lawsuit.

Through all of this, John never received the mental health care he needed or deserved in prison. And when he eventually committed a violent crime, the murder of a prison worker, Oklahoma provided him with incompetent lawyers who had no business handling a case with the ultimate punishment at stake.

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

SARAH JERNIGAN, ATTORNEY

The state executed Grant using a controversial drug cocktail consisting of midazolam, a sedative, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Witnesses say Grant convulsed about two-dozen times and vomited following the injection of midazolam. He continued breathing until after the second drug was administered. One witness who has been in the room for 14 other executions says he has never seen that happen.

Sean Murphy, an Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution, said Grant’s reaction to the lethal drug cocktail brought to mind the controversial execution of Clayton Lockett.

Lockett and death row inmate Charles Warner both experienced excruciating pain during their respective executions – Lockett’s in 2014 and Warner’s 2015. Lockett twitched and convulsed during his execution. Warner exclaimed that the drugs administered to him felt like acid and that he felt like his body was on fire.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals placed a stay on Grant’s and Julius Jones‘ executions on Wednesday. The death row inmates’ legal teams argued to the Court of Appeals that they had an agreement with former Attorney General Mike 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 for Grant and Jones. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State.

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.

The combination of execution drugs administered during Lockett’s execution had never been used before.

An autopsy on Warner found that officials used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride to kill Warner.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 29, 2015, in the case Glossip v. Gross, that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

State officials adopted a plan to use nitrogen gas to execute inmates, but jettisoned that idea and decided to resume executions using the same three-drug lethal injection protocol used during the flawed executions in 2014 and 2015.

Dale Baich, attorney for Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, who was the plaintiff in the aforementioned 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case, issued the following statement about Grant’s execution:

“Based on the reporting of the eyewitnesses to the execution, for the third time in a row, Oklahoma’s execution protocol did not work 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. There should be no more executions in Oklahoma until we go to trial in February to address the state’s problematic lethal injection protocol.”

DALE BAICH, ATTORNEY

Minutes before Glossip was set to be executed in 2015, then-Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution after officials realized there was a mix-up regarding the drugs set to be used in his lethal injection.

He remains on death row for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese in Oklahoma City.

On Friday, Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent issued a statement on Grant’s execution:

This latest example of a botched execution should give all Oklahomans serious concerns about the State’s ability to properly administer the death penalty.

In 2016, 66% of Oklahomans voted to uphold the death penalty as the highest form of punishment for the most egregious crimes, and it is the governor’s job to ensure executions are carried out appropriately. After reviewing eyewitness reports from the death chamber, it is clear the governor has failed to do that.

Governor Stitt should immediately suspend further executions until he can guarantee the people of Oklahoma that his administration can properly carry out the sentence.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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