As Oklahoma denies execution was botched, journalists tell the truth

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor
oklahoma executions botched execution sean murphy ap

Witnesses to the state’s first execution since 2015 released graphic details after Thursday’s botched state-sanctioned murder. They indicated death row detainee John Grant underwent significant suffering the moments before his death. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections, however, has denied any wrongdoing.

Despite seasoned reporters like Associated Press journalist Sean Murphy detailing dozens of convulsions and vomiting following the state’s lethal injection of midazolam, the DOC is attempting to cover-up its latest macabre murder.

“Inmate Grant’s execution was carried out in accordance with Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ protocols and without complications,” the DOC said in a statement shared by FOX 25 reporter Rebecca Pryor.

Oklahoma DOC Director Scott Crow gave a brief press conference on Friday at 2 p.m. to respond to questions from journalists. Crow announced that no changes would be made in the execution protocol, though a standard “quality review” process would take place. When asked by reporters about the vomiting, Crow instead called it “regurgitation” and said a consultation with the on-site physician assured him it was not uncommon for detainees to do so during lethal injection. 

When asked whether Grant’s execution was humane, Crow said “inmate Grant’s regurgitation was not pleasant to watch but I do not believe it was inhumane.” Crow also denied that he convulsed two dozen times, saying he believes it was less than 10.

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Incredibly, each reporter who witnessed the execution described an exact opposite scene.

“John Grant convulsed two dozen times as midazolam was administered. Then vomited. Then convulsed more. He was then declared unconscious. Then the second round of drugs were administered and he was declared dead at 4:21pm. 

His last words were a string of profanities,” reporter Abigail Ogle tweeted, describing the account from AP journalist Sean Murphy.

Oklahoma botches execution, then lies about it

The latest morbid spectacle represents the third botched execution in a row in Oklahoma. All three involved Black men. At least two of the men suffered visibly for several minutes before succumbing to the drugs.

Many in Oklahoma, where the death penalty has been enshrined in the state constitution with support from 66 percent of voters, have expressed cheerful glee at the suffering of a man who committed a murder while in prison.

Officials charged John Grant with capital murder in the stabbing and killing of 58-year-old Dick Conner Correctional Center employee Gay Carter. His unsuccessful petition for clemency pointed to years of abuse while in the custody of state-run juvenile centers.

“At least now we are starting to get justice for our loved ones,”  Pamela Carter, daughter of Gay Carter, told reporters.

Yet, some are questioning whether lying about violating the U.S. Constitution to satisfy a desire for revenge is truly justice.

oklahoma death penalty libertarian party

Robert H. Alexander, Jr., center, a member of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The commission released a report that says the state should extend its moratorium on capital punishment. At left is Andy Lester and at right is former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki—AP

Constitution bans “cruel and unusual punishment”

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents “cruel and unusual punishment.” It’s why Oklahoma had placed a moratorium on executions for nearly the last seven years–because it has continually failed to carry out executions without using the wrong drugs, causing excruciating pain, or potentially killing innocent individuals.

AP journalist Sean Murphy has covered 14 executions. He said he’s never seen a detainee vomit while being administered a lethal injection.

While support for the “eye for an eye” philosophy appears strong in Oklahoma, the mental toll that comes with allowing the government to execute someone hasn’t been measured.

Some reporters witnessing the state-sanctioned murder were brought to tears, hugged, or logged off social media following their reports. Communities across the state are being taught that justice equals vengeance, even though the death penalty has not been shown to be a useful deterrent to violent crime.

Oklahoma goes to trial next year over its lethal injection protocol

Importantly, the execution took place despite a pending lawsuit challenging the state’s problematic lethal injection protocol and the requirement that they choose their own method of execution. Twice before, in 2015 and 2014, the state either used the wrong drug or administered the drugs incorrectly during executions. 

A federal trial date has been set for February 2022 to determine the constitutionality of this practice. Due to this, defense attorneys for death row detainee John Grant and Julius Jones were successfully granted a stay of execution by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Yet, unelected Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor refused to accept the ruling. He appealed to the conservative U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed the execution of John Grant to proceed on Thursday. 

Notably, AG O’Connor was ruled unqualified for a federal judge position by a committee of the American Bar Association in 2017. Despite this, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, who has the power to stop executions at any time, has leaned on him to lead as the state’s lead prosecutor of justice. Stitt has so far not commented on the fact that the execution was botched. Instead, he mentioned Oklahomans’ support for the death penalty.

“Today, the Department of Corrections carried out the law of the State of Oklahoma and delivered justice to Gay Carter’s family,” Stitt said on Thursday.

Now, the state’s Department of Corrections is attempting to discount what journalists witnessed with their own eyes and ears. 

The state has decided that maintaining the death penalty is more important than abiding by the Constitution or being truthful with its residents. As the government attempts to cover up the latest botched execution, today’s journalists in the state have an increasingly crucial role in ensuring democracy and justice prevail over theocratic vengeance.

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2 comments

DOC tries to refute Associated Press account of botched execution October 29, 2021 - 3:41 pm

[…] asked whether Grant’s execution was humane, Crow said “inmate Grant’s regurgitation was not pleasant to watch but I do not […]

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Man sues Oklahoma DOC for records on source of lethal injection drugs November 10, 2021 - 10:44 am

[…] Yet with the new unelected attorney general eager to resume executions for seven death row detainees between October 2021 and March 2022, John Marion Grant’s state-sanctioned murder represents the latest botched execution. […]

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