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As a choir of diverse and bipartisan voices continue to call on Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to follow the Pardon and Parole Board’s clemency recommendation for Julius Jones, one man is suing the state for records related to the drugs used in the last several botched executions.
John Marion Grant was the first person to be executed in Oklahoma in nearly seven years when the state injected him with lethal drugs on October 28 in what the Associated Press and other outlets described as botched. Witnesses described a horrific scene involving dozens of violent convulsions and vomiting, so much so, that officials entered the chamber to wipe Grant’s mouth before allowing his death to resume.
Fred Hodara is a former attorney from New York. For months he’s sought state records from the DOC relating to the source of their lethal injection drugs.
Man sues DOC for transparency on source of lethal injection drugs
In resuming the scheduling of executions, the state had claimed it found a reliable source even as the vast majority of pharmaceutical companies refuse to supply drugs for executions, according to a Reuters investigation.
So, Hodara was shocked when state officials finally responded to his Open Records Act request by claiming no documentation of lethal injection drugs existed.
“Over the course of the period we received no response. Then after we persisted, we received a one line response saying there are no records responsive to your request,” Hodara told The Black Wall Street Times.
Tired of waiting on the state to follow state law recording the Open Records Act, and with seven executions newly scheduled, Hodara filed a petition against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in Oklahoma County District Court on October 12, 2021.
The petition complains that the state of Oklahoma isn’t following its own law and seeks to force the state to turn over documents.
“This action arises out of the Defendant’s refusal to search for or produce, or failure to maintain, records of a public body subject to disclosure under the Oklahoma Open Records Act,” the filing states.
Oklahoma DOC official denies execution was botched
Hodara also filed an injunction to force the government to turn over the records. It seeks a stay of executions until the state provides the relevant documents, according to an October 26 filing, two days before John Grant’s execution.
“Though it intends to execute Mr. Grant in mere days, Defendant has continued to withhold all documents related to its lethal injection protocol and drug procurement efforts,” the injunction states. “Absent an injunction, Defendant will continue to withhold all relevant documents and risk repeating the same mistakes that led to the botched executions of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014 and Charles Warner on January 15, 2015.”
Meanwhile, Grant’s execution proceeded as scheduled, with DOC Director Scott Crow claiming “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.
Oklahoma’s last three executions were botched
The latest botched execution follows three previous failed attempts. In 2014, death row detainee Clayton Lockett writhed in agony for nearly 45 minutes and ultimately suffered a heart attack amidst an untested cocktail of drugs used to kill him. Satisfied with their work, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections once again botched an execution in 2015. Charles Warner’s autopsy report showed officials had used the wrong drugs to kill Warner. Officials used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.
Meanwhile, former Governor Mary Fallin eventually placed a moratorium on executions until the state has “complete confidence in the system”. The halt came moments before officials were set to kill death row detainee Richard Glossip. On the day of the scheduled execution in 2015, officials realized they were about to once again administer the wrong drugs.
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.
The same day Grant was executed, a district judge decided not to approve the stay of execution, but instead set a November 30 hearing on the matter of the lawsuit for records.
With Julius Jones scheduled for execution on November 18, conservative leaders, students, clergy, and millions around the country continue to call on Gov. Stitt to accept the clemency recommendation approved by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in a 3-1 vote on November 1, 2021.
“The fact that [John Grant] died after 25 minutes of suffering, vomiting and convulsing, that’s wrong. That’s a botched attempt,” Hodara said. “We need to know what it is that the state is doing in its administrative process that’s causing these repeated gruesome deaths.”