Update: On Wednesday evening, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor announced intentions to appeal the stay of execution to the U.S. Supreme Court.
After a federal judge denied a request to stay the executions of several Oklahoma death row detainees, attorneys for the men filed an appeal with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which partially granted the request on Wednesday.
Grant is a death row detainee who faced an Oct 28 execution for the killing of a correctional center employee. Julius Jones is a former University of Oklahoma student who has maintained his innocence for over 20 years in the murder of Edmond man Paul Howell.
“Appellants have requested a stay of execution pending the adjudication of this appeal. To accomplish that purpose and in aid of our jurisdiction, we partially grant the motion and stay the executions of John Grant, currently scheduled for October 28, 2021, and of Julius Jones, currently scheduled for November 18, 2021.” the Court stated.
Men temporarily spared from execution as court hears appeal
The two men first scheduled for death are both Black in a state that disproportionately executes Black men. Even though they make up less than 10 percent of the population, Black men account for 42 percent of the men currently scheduled for execution in Oklahoma.
The appeal came after an unsuccessful attempt to convince an Oklahoma federal judge that forcing death row detainees to choose their method of execution is a violation of their constitutional rights and religious beliefs. The lawsuit also challenged Oklahoma’s problematic execution drug protocol.
The state hasn’t carried out executions since 2015, when a series of botched executions forced then-governor Mary Fallin to declare a moratorium. In once case, detainee Clayton Lockett writhed in agony for nearly 45 minutes before dying of a heart attack after a worker improperly administered the drug cocktail.
While Grant has been spared for the moment, a day before his planned execution, the latest legal decision has cast doubt on when or whether the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board will hold a clemency hearing for Julius Jones. The Oklahoma Attorney General can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the stay. If that happens, Oklahoma will move forward with Grant’s execution, and the Pardon and Parole Board will be expected to move forward with Julius Jones’ clemency hearing.
BREAKING: The 10th circuit court of appeals has granted a stay of executions of death row inmates John Grant & Julius Jones following an appeal that was filed earlier this week. @kfor pic.twitter.com/HCb4y5iAXe
— Jessica Bruno Richards (@JbrunoKFOR) October 27, 2021
Meanwhile, by Wednesday evening, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor announced intentions to appeal the stay of execution to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to an update from KFOR reporter Jessica Bruno Richards. After several appointments by former twice-impeached President Trump, the Court wields a 6-3 conservative majority.
“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.” AG John O’Connor stated through a press release.
Notably, O’Connor was ruled unqualified for a federal judge position prior to Oklahoma Governor Stitt appointing him to his current role.