UPDATE: The State of Oklahoma filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the High Court to vacate the stay of execution granted for death row inmate John Grant.
This action comes after the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay in the execution dates for Grant and Julius Jones on Wednesday.
Grant was scheduled to be executed on Thursday.
The inmates’ attorneys argued 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, which challenges whether Oklahoma’s execution protocol, a three-drug cocktail, is legal.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An appeal filed with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by the attorneys of five death-row inmates, asking for a stay in their upcoming execution dates, has been granted for two of the inmates.
On Monday, a federal judge denied a request for a stay in the executions of five death row inmates, including high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones and John Grant, who was scheduled to be executed on Thursday.
The attorneys for the inmates argued they had an agreement with former Attorney General Mike Hunter that no executions would take place for now due to an upcoming trial in February, which challenges whether Oklahoma’s execution protocol, a three-drug cocktail, is legal.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says it is prepared to resume executions after executions were put on hold in 2015.
Officials say they will use a three drug protocol that has been proven to be humane and effective. They say extensive validations have been implemented since the last execution in order to ensure that the process works as intended.
In response to today’s order, Dale Baich, one of the attorneys for the death row plaintiffs said, “The Tenth Circuit did the right thing by blocking Mr. Grant’s execution on Thursday. Today’s order should prevent the State from carrying out executions until the federal district court addresses the ‘credible expert criticism’ it identified in Oklahoma’s execution procedures. Those issues will be carefully reviewed by the court at the trial scheduled in February.”
“We have received the Order of the Tenth Circuit granting a stay of the executions of John M. Grant and Julius D. Jones. We are appealing the decision to the United States Supreme Court. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will vacate the stay so that justice can finally be served for the people of Oklahoma, including the families of the victims of these horrific crimes,” said the Office of Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor.
In a statement sent to News 4 on Wednesday afternoon, Justin Wolf, communications director for ODOC said, “The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is prepared to move forward with executions in accordance with the orders of the court.”
Wolf also told News 4 members of the media can still plan to be let onto the property in McAlester at a certain time Thursday, as was planned before the stay was granted.
Why executions in Oklahoma were put on hold:
In 2014, the State of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett for killing 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in 1999.
The resulting 43-minute procedure featured a never-before-used combination of execution drugs and went awry as Lockett awoke from his unconscious state, and began twitching and convulsing 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.
In 2015, Charles Warner was put to death for the rape and murder of 11-month-old Adrianna Walker in 1997.
Before the three-drug cocktail was administered, Warner was heard saying, “It feels like acid,” and “My body is on fire.”
An autopsy report says that officials used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride to kill Warner.
Today’s stays of execution
Grant was convicted in the 1998 murder of Gay Carter, a kitchen supervisor at the Dick Conner Correctional Center, where he was incarcerated at due to several robbery convictions.
Court documents say that Grant stabbed Carter 16 times inside a broom closet.
His execution was scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m. at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Jones is on death row for the murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, who was shot to death in the driveway of his parents’ Edmond home in July 1999.
“When we pulled up in the driveway and stopped, my dad had kind of cracked the door open. I looked over. I was sitting right behind him, right behind my dad. I was in the backseat right behind the driver’s seat, and I looked over and saw Julius Jones walking up to the car,” Rachel Howell, Paul’s daughter, told KFOR. “It happened so fast, but I saw him walking up, and I remember waving, because I’m a child. I don’t know what’s about to happen. I just remember kind of waving, and he literally shot my dad in the head and did not say a word. He did not say a word. He shot my dad, and I watched my dad’s head go like that. That is the vision that I have every night is my dad’s head falling to the right.”
Investigators say the murderer took off in Howell’s Suburban.
Jones was ultimately arrested and indicted for Howell’s murder. He did not take the stand during the trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2002.
Since his conviction, there has been a national movement proclaiming his innocence.
“As God is my witness, I was not involved in any way in the crimes that led to Howell being shot and killed,” Jones said in his clemency report. “I have spent the past 20 years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness and was not at.”
However, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater says Jones’ supporters have “disseminated misinformation and lies regarding the trial and evidence” in the case.
Last month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted in favor of commuting Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole, with several members of the board citing doubts in the case.
His clemency hearing was set for Monday, November 1 and his execution date was set for November 18.
Donald Grant, Wade Lay and Gilbert Postelle’s executions have not been stayed.
Donald Grant’s execution is set for Jan. 27, 2022.
Wade Lay’s execution is set for Jan. 6, 2022.
Gilbert Postelle’s execution is set for Feb. 17, 2022.