Seven execution dates have been set by Oklahoma for prisoners on the state’s death row.
After a six-year hiatus, the state of Oklahoma has decided to resume its execution of death row inmates despite national concerns. The execution dates of seven death row inmates have now been set. The suspension of death by lethal injection was caused by a series of botched executions in the state of Oklahoma.
In 2014, Clayton Lockett received an experimental drug cocktail consisting of midazolam (a sedative), rocuronium bromide (a paralytic) and potassium chloride (stops the heart). Lockett’s execution began at 6:23 p.m.. 10 minutes later, he was declared unconscious; however, at 6:36 p.m. Lockett woke up and started talking—completely conscious of what was going on around him. Minutes later, he began wildly thrashing around in pain. By 6:56 p.m., the execution was halted. Lockett died 10 minutes later of a heart attack induced by the botched execution.
A subsequent investigation occurred and a report was published that claimed the IV was not properly inserted into Lockett’s vein, which “resulted in the blood vein collapsing and the drugs either absorbed into the tissue, leaked out or both.”
In 2015, death row inmate Charles Frederick Warner was supposed to have received the same drugs in his injection as Lockett; however, he received potassium acetate, rather than potassium chloride. During the execution, Warner was quoted as saying, “My body is on fire.” The controversy lies in the fact that he was given a paralytic injection, so he showed no signs of physical pain due to being paralyzed.
There is no proof that the experimental drug cocktail is painless to those it is given to; in fact, it seems as if the opposite were true. Dr. Joel Zivot and Dr. Mark Edgar of Emory University Hospital claim that the autopsies of those executed by lethal injection show pulmonary edema, which induces the feeling of being suffocated or drowned.
After these two botched execution attempts, former governor Mary Fallin put a hold on state executions for the time being until an investigation could be made. The investigation found that a series of missteps and mistakes had occurred. In 2020, the Department of Corrections director Scott Crow said that protocols are now in place; however, these protocols are the same protocols that were supposed to be used six years ago in the botched executions. One of these protocols includes checking to make sure the correct drug is being used. In February 2020, the state of Oklahoma announced that executions would resume, using the same three drugs in the failed executions of Charles Frederick Warner and Clayton Lockett.
Recently, the execution dates for seven death row inmates were announced. The first being John Marion Grant, who was supposed to be executed the same night as Warner, but was given an extension due to the incident. His execution is now set for Oct. 28.
Julius Jones has also received his execution date, Nov. 18. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to commute Jones’ execution to life in prison with the possibility of receiving parole down the line. The final decision was left to Governor Kevin Stitt. However, in a statement released earlier this week, Sitt said, “I am not accepting the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of Julius Jones because a clemency hearing, not a commutation hearing, is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.” Jones’ clemency hearing is currently scheduled for Oct. 26.
With a few weeks remaining until the execution of John Marion Grant, his clemency hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5. If the clemency meeting does not go in Grant’s favor, he will be the first individual to be executed in Oklahoma since 2015.