John Marion Grant convulsed nearly two dozen times and Oklahoma prison officials wiped vomit from his face before his death was pronounced at 4:21 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Associated Press writer Sean Murphy, who was one of five media witnesses, compared Grant’s death to the 2014 Oklahoma execution of Clayton Lockett — who writhed in agony for roughly 43 minutes before his death, and whose death raised questions about the use of the death penalty.
“I’ve never seen an inmate vomit,” Murphy told reporters. “I’ve witnessed about 14 executions and I’ve never witnessed that before.”
Briefing other reporters not selected to witness the execution, Murphy said Grant’s convulsions were similar to what he witnessed in the Lockett execution, although he added that Lockett “appeared to be somewhat conscious.”
Grant, 60, was serving time in Hominy on a robbery charge when he killed prison cafeteria worker Gay Carter.
Paula Gay Carter, daughter of the victim, released a statement Thursday after the execution.
“At least now we are starting to get justice for our loved ones. The death penalty is about protecting any future victims. Even after Grant was removed from society, he committed an act of violence that took an innocent life.”
The state used the same three-drug cocktail on Grant on Thursday that it had used for Lockett’s execution; an investigation later found an IV also was not properly administered in Lockett’s thigh.
Other witnesses also said Grant convulsed and then vomited after prison officials administered midazolam — the first of Oklahoma’s three-drug cocktail used in executions.
Oklahoma uses midazolam to first render the inmate unconscious, then vecuronium bromide as a muscle relaxant, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Attorneys for several Oklahoma death row inmates have raised questions about the effectiveness of midazolam in court challenges.
A three-judge U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Denver on Wednesday had stayed the executions for Grant and Julius Jones, who is scheduled to die next month. However, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the stay in the final hours leading up to Grant’s death.
The Supreme Court order Thursday also lifts the stay on Jones’ execution, which is set for Nov. 18. Jones — whose case gained national notoriety and supporters — is set to appear before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday for a clemency hearing.
Grant’s execution started shortly after 4 p.m. Murphy said Grant appeared to lift his head, started breathing heavily and convulsed before executioners wiped vomit from his face before medical personnel declared him unconscious at 4:15 p.m.
Executioners administered the second round of drugs one minute later, and Grant’s breathing stopped around 4:17 p.m., witnesses said.
Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow announced the execution was complete and Grant’s time of death was 4:21 p.m.
Sarah Jernigan, Grant’s attorney, said her client never received proper treatment for trauma he faced in state-run youth detention facilities but still took responsibility for his actions.
“I pray John Grant is at peace now, and I pray his death brings peace and closure to Ms. Carter’s family,” Jernigan said in a statement.