John Marion Grant went into “full-body convulsions” then vomited on himself twice as he was put to death on Thursday after a last-minute U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for Oklahoma to conduct its first execution in nearly seven years.
The 60-year-old convicted killer went into “about two dozen full body convulsions” when midazolam, the first drug in Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, entered his system, according to Sean Murphy, a reporter with the Associated Press who witnessed Thursday’s execution.
Grant vomited on himself after he was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber and the midazolam was administered. Prison staff cleaned Grant up, but he vomited again.
Grant’s last words were a “string of profanities,” Murphy said. The microphone to the death chamber was then cut off and the execution began.
Grant was one of a group of death row prisoners who had sued over Oklahoma’s execution drug protocols, arguing that it’s impossible to know whether midazolam — a sedative — is effective in preventing the inmates from feeling unnecessary amounts of pain. The lawsuit claims that Oklahoma’s current drug protocol is largely the same as the one used in the state’s previous troubled executions.
Pamela Gay Carter, the daughter of Gay Carter, Grant’s victim, issued a statement through Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections saying she was glad to be “starting to get justice for our loved ones.
“The death penalty is about protecting any potential future victims,” she said in the statement. “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.”
Sarah Jernigan, a lawyer for Grant, said in a statement that she prayed that “Grant is at peace now.”
“(A)nd I pray his death brings peace and closure to Ms. Carter’s family,” Jernigan wrote.
Grant’s time of death was 4:21 p.m.
An appeals court had granted a stay in Grant’s execution on Wednesday, but Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court dissolved the stay Monday afternoon by a 5-3 vote along partisan lines, paving the way for Grant’s execution.
The court’s ruling also cleared a path for Julius Jones to be executed on Nov. 18. Jones, 41, was convicted of killing Edmond businessman Paul Howell in 2002.
Grant’s execution marked the end of a turbulent week. On Monday, a federal judge denied a stay of execution for Grant and several other inmates. But on Wednesday, an appeals court overruled the lower court’s order, granting a stay for both Grant and Jones. But on Thursday afternoon, the stay was lifted.
Grant’s execution was the first successful application of the death penalty in Oklahoma since January 2015 when Charles Warner was put to death. Warner was convicted in 2003 of the rape and murder of an 11-month old girl. Warner’s death came nine months after Clayton Lockett’s execution was botched, resulting in him writhing, twisting, and gasping for air on the table in the death chamber. Lockett later died out of the view of media witnesses.
Following Warner’s execution, Oklahoma attempted to put Richard Glossip to death three times. But Glossip was spared by a series of court orders and, eventually, the realization that Oklahoma had ordered an unapproved drug for his execution. Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt halted all executions in the state after the drug mix-up.
“For the third time in a row, Oklahoma’s execution protocol did not go according to plan,” Dale Baich, an attorney for the death row inmates, told The Frontier. “This is why the 10th Circuit stayed John Grant’s execution and this is why the Supreme Court should not have lifted the stay.”
As the execution neared on Thursday afternoon, a group of protestors gathered outside Stitt’s mansion in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City resident John Walters has protested outside of the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion ahead of each execution for the past 15 years. He and dozens of others who are against capital punishment gathered there again on Thursday after an absence of six years while the state did not perform any executions.
“It’s just like old times because I know all these people who come out,” Walters said as he held part of a banner that read “Don’t Kill for Me”.
“Today it is different because it was called off and then at the last minute it was put back on,” he said.
Yukon resident Erica Gomez joined the group to protest Jones’ scheduled execution in November. Jones has maintained his innocence and has gathered an ardent group of supporters.
“I have faith that the right thing will be done for Julius but I have sorrow that they are planning on executing John Grant,” Gomez said. “I felt like he was a victim of the system and the same system that victimized him will be the same system that murders him.”
Grant was already serving time in prison for a series of armed robberies when he killed Gay Carter, 58, a food service supervisor at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy on Nov. 13, 1998.
Grant and Gay Carter had argued over a tray of food the day before the killing. Other inmates testified they heard Grant tell Carter, “I’ll get you bitch,” according to court records. The next day, witnesses saw Grant loitering near a storage closet. He later pulled Gay Carter into the closet and stabbed her multiple times in the chest with a prison shank, authorities said.
Pamela Carter told KFOR this week in an interview that she was working with her mom at the time of the stabbing, and was able to have a final conversation with her before her death.
“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 television station.
Grant was one of seven death row prisoners that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set execution dates for in September after they were dropped from a federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. After the execution dates were set, Grant and some of the other inmates were re-added to the lawsuit. Grant’s attorneys had argued that the pending lawsuit should have prevented him from being executed.
Before he stepped down earlier this year, former Attorney General Mike Hunter had agreed not to seek execution dates for inmates who were challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol.
During his trial, Grant described growing up in poverty in a family of nine children. He said he first left home as a 12-year-old and described growing up in juvenile homes for boys where he was abused. His attorneys raised that history again in Grant’s clemency application this month, which the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied.