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Lethal injection: can pharma kill the death penalty?

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A recent problematic execution by lethal injection has reignited the debate about the ethics of using medical products to kill. In October, Oklahoma prison inmate John Marion Grant was executed by a lethal injection. Strapped to a gurney, Grant convulsed and vomited – highly unusual for the procedure – after being given midazolam, a sedative and the first of three drugs that are usually administered for lethal injection. Grant was declared unconscious around 15 minutes after receiving the first injection and died roughly six minutes after that. Extreme shortages resulting from the EU’s and pharma companies’ anti-execution moves have seen states seek alternative supplies illicitly from overseas manufacturers , obtain them from less-than-reputable compounding facilities and manufacturers , and experiment with alternative drugs and untested combinations . Now, this botched procedure – Oklahoma’s first lethal injection in six years after a spate of flawed executions in 2014 and 2015 – h

Oklahoma | Execution dates set for Julius Jones, 6 other death row inmates

Oklahoma's death chamber
High-profile death row inmate Julius Jones has been scheduled for execution Nov. 18.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday set execution dates for Jones and six other inmates convicted of murder.

The court set the date for Jones even though the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended Gov. Kevin Stitt commute his death sentence.

The board voted 3-1 Sept. 13 to recommend his sentence be commuted to life in prison. If the governor agrees, Jones immediately would be eligible for parole.

Stitt could choose to commute the sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also could deny commutation.

Oklahoma's new attorney general, John O'Connor, asked the court to schedule the execution dates.

O'Connor made the request in August after a federal judge ruled six of the inmates could no longer participate in a legal challenge to the state's execution procedures.

“The seven inmates to be scheduled for execution were convicted of heinous crimes,” O’Connor said in August. “They either didn't challenge the protocol or offer an alternative method of execution." 

Still in the legal challenge are 26 other death row inmates. Their lawsuit in Oklahoma City federal court focuses mainly on the use of a sedative, midazolam, in lethal injections. Trial is set for Feb. 28.

Jones, 41, is facing execution for the 1999 fatal shooting of an Edmond insurance executive during a carjacking. Jurors chose the death penalty as punishment at a 2002 trial.

The victim, Paul Howell, was gunned down in his parents' driveway in Edmond after a back-to-school shopping trip with his daughters. Stolen was his 1997 Suburban.

Jones claims that he is innocent, that the real killer framed him and that his trial was unfair.

"I am not the only young Black male whose public defenders were overmatched, whose juries were biased, who were chewed up and spit out by a system that packs our prisons with people who look just like me," he wrote in a letter sent to the board.

Millions signed a petition in his support after ABC in 2018 aired the documentary series, "The Last Defense," about his innocence claim.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution since January 2015.

Scheduled for execution first is John Marion Grant, 60, an armed robber who was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a prison kitchen worker in 1998.

His execution was set for Oct. 28.

Next is Jones.

Third is Bigler Jobe Stouffer, 78, who was sentenced to death for the 1985 fatal shooting of a Putnam City elementary school teacher. His execution was set for Dec. 9.

Stouffer did not join the other death row inmates in their legal challenge to the execution protocol. His attorney, though, told the Court of Criminal Appeals he will file his own challenge.

Fourth is Wade Greely Lay, 60, who was sentenced to death for killing a security guard during a botched bank robbery in 2004. His execution was set for Jan. 6.

Fifth is Donald A. Grant, 45, who was sentenced to death for killing two workers at the LaQuinta Inn in Del City during a 2001 robbery. His execution was set for Jan. 27.

Sixth is Gilbert Ray Postelle, 35, who was convicted of murdering four people on Memorial Day 2005 outside a trailer in Del City. He was sentenced to death for two of the murders and to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the other two.

His execution was set for Feb. 17.

Seventh is James Allen Coddington, 49, who was sentenced to death for killing a Choctaw man in 1997 during a cocaine binge. His execution was set for March 10.

O'Connor initally had asked for earlier dates. He revised his request when the appeals court did not act. He told the court he was doing so so that inmates will get a required notice and to allow the parole board time to conduct clemency hearings.

In the order, the four judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals found that the setting of execution dates is now appropriate and required by law.

They acknowledged in a footnote that they are aware of Jones' commutation request. They wrote "this Court's duty to set a date certain is dictated" by law because there is currently no stay in effect.

Supporters of Jones went to Twitter Monday to call on the governor to take up the recommendation and commute the sentence. "Help us SAVE HIS LIFE by contacting @GovStitt," celebrity Kim Kardashian tweeted.

In a news release, the Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, a leader of the Justice for Julius campaign, said, "We urge Governor Stitt to review the application in a timely manner and bring long-averted justice to this very tragic situation by accepting the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board."

Howell's family last week said the commutation vote was devastating.

"Our family continues to be victimized by Julius Jones and his lies," relatives said. "We sincerely hope that the Governor will review this case and treat us more fairly than the criminal justice reformers on this Board." 

The governor could have the final say on the other inmates if clemency is recommended. The parole board plans to hold clemency hearings three weeks before execution dates.

An attorney for John Grant said Monday the state of Oklahoma should extend him the mercy he was denied as a vulnerable child in its custody.

“John Grant is far from the worst of the worst. He has taken full responsibility for his crime and has apologized to his victim’s family. Had the jury learned of the horrific victimization he experienced in State-run institutions when he was just a child, there is at least a reasonable probability he would not have been sentenced to death,"  Sarah Jernigan, an assistant federal public defender, said.

Also, the federal judge could reinstate the six inmates who were kicked out of the legal challenge to the execution protocol. Or an appeals court could intervene. Either outcome would result in execution delays.

"To allow executions to proceed when there is a chance the federal court could find a constitutionally unacceptable risk that a person could suffer because of the drug combination used, is deeply troubling,” said Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender representing Jones and others.

Also speaking out after the execution dates were announced were death penalty opponents.

"After nearly seven years without an execution, why is Oklahoma in such a hurry to execute Julius Jones and other death row inmates?" asked Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

"We have an opportunity to support the God-given dignity of every human person, protect society and seek justice for victims and their families by using other available means to hold criminals accountable," the Catholic leader said.

Source: oklahoman, Nolan Clay, September 20, 2021


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