After a five-year moratorium, the state of Oklahoma botched its third consecutive execution on Thursday when convict John Marion Grant died after convulsing and vomiting all over himself following a lethal injection, according to witnesses.
Grant, 60, was convicted of murdering prison guard Gay Carter on Friday the 13th in November of 1998 after he stabbed her 16 times with a shank knife while he was serving sentences for robbery and illegal firearm charges.
Almost immediately after he was injected, Grant experienced two dozen full body convulsions and began vomiting all over himself, according to Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy, who witnessed the execution.
Murphy reported that Grant continued to breathe for several minutes during which he experienced more convulsions, and vomited again before the execution team conducted a consciousness check.
He was declared unconscious by the team at 4:15 p.m, and was administered a second round of drugs at 4:16 p.m., he reported. Breathing stopped at 4:17, and the Department of Corrections recorded the execution complete and Grant as deceased at 4:21 p.m.
Murphy said of the 14 executions he has witnessed, this is the first one in which the inmate vomited, he told reporters.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced that it would resume carrying out death sentences on Tuesday per state statute when it said Grant would be the first man to be killed by the state in five years.
Oklahoma executions were put on hold following a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney and drug mix-ups in 2015 in which the wrong lethal drugs were delivered.
One inmate was executed with an unapproved drug and a second inmate was just moments away from being led to the death chamber before prison officials realized the same wrong drug had been delivered for his execution.
Death-row inmates in Oklahoma are now injected with an approved three-drug cocktail. The three drugs are: midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
“Extensive validations and redundancies have been implemented since the last execution in order to ensure that the process works as intended,” the DOC ensured.
“The Department of Corrections has addressed concerns regarding carrying out the death penalty and is prepared to follow the will of the people of Oklahoma, as expressed in state statute, and the orders of the courts by carrying out the execution of inmates sentenced to death by a jury of their peers,” said Director Scott Crow in a statement.
There are currently 44 inmates awaiting the death penalty in Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Grant’s attorney Sarah Jernigan released a statement after he was executed, in which she said her client regretted killing Carter and was a lifelong victim of the state of Oklahoma’s institutions who never received the mental health he deserved.
Grant suffered from child neglect, she said, and was left to look after himself on the streets. She said up until the day he died he was unable to put the trauma he experienced into words.
“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,” Jernigan said in a statement, obtained by KOCO.
“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,” she wrote.
“Oklahoma ultimately dumped John onto 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 of 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.
She said Grant never got the mental health treatment he needed or deserved, and was presented with “incompetent lawyers” by the state “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.
Carter’s daughter gave her first television interview on KFOR this week, in which she recounted the day her mother was murdered while they were both working at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy.
“I was working the day she was killed at Dick Conner Correctional Center,” Pam said. “I saw mom on the ground, but I got to say, ‘Mom, I love you.’ I got to say, I got to holler, ‘Mom, I love you,’ before I had to get out of the way.”
She told the outlet that she would be attending Grant’s execution on Thursday.
“My theory about the death penalty is there are some crimes that are so reprehensible that that is the ultimate option, because it is not about revenge. It is not about revenge. It is about keeping another person safe. I want to make sure that this does not happen to anybody else, that nobody has to go through what I and my family has had to go through,” she told KFOR . “The main thing it would have done for me, I think, is so I could say, ‘Mom, he’s not going to hurt anybody else,’ because that’s what this is about, not letting him hurt someone else.”
The execution was criticized by the Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of Oklahoma City. in a statement to local outlets. The Catholic church has deemed the death penalty “inadmissible” since 2018.
“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 lessening 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.”