Oklahoma executes man who suffered from severe mental illness

Oklahoma executed 46-year-old Donald Grant on Thursday, killing a man with serious mental illness and brain damage. Grant is the third person killed by the state in recent months in a trial over whether Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Grant was killed by a lethal injection of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride – the same combination of drugs used in the highly publicized 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett. , Oklahoma officials used the same drug protocol last October to kill Jean-Marion Grant (no relation), who vomited and gasped while dying.

Donald Grant feared his execution was botched, he Recount KFOR’s Ali Meyer on the phone before he was killed. Media witnesses described no visible signs of pain, although the state’s lethal injection contains a paralytic that can mask signs of pain. Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy, who witnessed the execution, reported that Grant’s last words included, “Yo, God, I get it.

“There is no basis in principle for allowing Oklahoma to move forward with executions at this time,” said Jennifer Moreno, one of the federal defenders representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. lethal injection, in a press release. “The problematic execution of John Grant, as well as the errors made by the State in the execution of [Lockett] and Charles Warner in 2014 and 2015, show that the state’s midazolam protocol creates too much risk of pain and suffering. A trial is scheduled for the end of February where these questions will be fully debated on the merits. A short break would be more prudent.

Grant was executed as punishment for killing La Quinta Inn employees Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith during a 2001 robbery to get money to bail his girlfriend out of jail. McElyea’s sister, Shirl Pilcher, said in a statement that while Grant’s execution “does not bring Brenda back, it allows us all to finally move forward knowing that justice has been served.”

An abusive childhood

Like many people on death row in the United States, Grant grew up in poverty and suffered extreme abuse. His mother drank heavily during her pregnancy and complications during childbirth “seriously impaired his brain development and left him with lifelong disabilities”, concluded perinatal medicine physician Carolyn Crawford after examining Grant’s brain scans and her mother’s pregnancy and childbirth records.

Grant’s father also struggled with alcoholism and “had a violent temper when drunk,” Grant’s brother Shawn Robinson said in a 2010 statement. and dropped him headfirst on a marble floor when Donald was very young,” Robinson said. Several times a week, Grant’s father would bang his head against a metal pole in the basement of their apartment, his brother testified at trial. Grant’s mother also beat him using curtain rods, extension cords, and high-heeled shoes.

When Grant was around 6 years old, his parents separated. He, his mother and four siblings were homeless. They eventually moved into Grant’s grandmother’s apartment in a housing project in Brooklyn. No less than 26 people lived in the three-bedroom apartment at a time. Several of the children living in the apartment were sexually abused by Grant’s uncles, according to Grant’s sister, Juzzell Robinson.

Most of the adults in the apartment, including Grant’s mother, struggled with drug addiction. Grant stole food to eat and got a job packing groceries. Sometimes while Grant and his siblings slept at night, their mother and uncles stole money from their pockets to buy drugs, Shawn Robinson said.

Grant’s mother eventually got him and his siblings out of his grandmother’s house, and they moved between shelters and social hotels in New York – at least 15 to 20 different ones, estimated Juzzell Robinson. When Grant was 12, his grandmother reported his mother to the Child Protection Bureau. Grant and one of his brothers were placed in a group home, separated from the rest of their family.

Grant was placed in special education classes until he dropped out of school in ninth grade. When he was around 14, his mother hatched a plan to “abduct” her children from New York Protective Services and move them to North Carolina, Grant’s attorneys wrote in her clemency petition. His mother was still addicted to crack, and they still lacked stable housing and money for food and clothing. In the clemency package, Grant’s attorneys cite several family members who recall Grant exhibiting bizarre and sudden behavioral changes as a child.

Shortly after the move, Grant was convicted in juvenile court and convicted of committing felony break and enter, robbery, and second-degree burglary. He was placed in a juvenile training school and assessed as having “borderline intellectual functioning”. Throughout his teenage years, he continued to get in trouble for theft.

Grant’s mother’s husband, Ronald Williams, thought Grant “had mental issues,” he said in a 2007 statement. “Even when Donald was older and doing well, he cracked always. He was making these faces and you could tell he wasn’t right,” Williams said. “I thought the boy was suicidal. He isolated himself. I used to hear him talk as if he was talking to someone else, then I walked into the room and saw that there was no one there but him.

After the 2001 double homicide, Grant’s trial was stalled for four years because he was incompetent to stand trial, according to his clemency petition. Several doctors discovered that Grant was showing symptoms of psychosis. At least two doctors, including one hired by the state, diagnosed him with schizophrenia.

When Grant finally testified in court in 2005, his statements were rambling and nonsensical. Asked about a potential conflict of interest involving his lawyer, Grant replied, “My theory plays into my whole background. It’s for one. My way of life is that I will leave this planet earth. This is my theory. My theory, I stick to it and it has nothing to do with it. My theory is my theory, you know what I’m saying.

Donald Grant was executed despite ample evidence of mental illness and an abusive childhood.

Donald Grant’s legal team

Despite evidence of untreated mental illness, Grant was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005. Several groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and the American Bar Association ( ABA), have called for the prohibition of capital punishment for those suffering from serious mental illness at the time of the crime.

The Supreme Court has declared it unconstitutional to execute people under the age of 18 and people with intellectual disabilities.

“The reasoning behind these decisions was simple: individuals whose brains were not fully developed or altered do not have the guilt necessary to be executed,” NAMI says on his website, noting that the Supreme Court specifically identified several factors that are also “applicable to active symptoms of [serious mental illness], such as the delusions and hallucinations characteristic of psychosis.

Runtime Test Subjects

Grant is one of dozens of death row inmates who are the plaintiffs in a trial challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s Three Drug Enforcement Protocol. During a May 2020 hearing, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said he received assurances from then-Attorney General Mike Hunter that the state would not seek execution dates until that the litigation would not be finished.

According to the Supreme Court, for lethal injection challenges to succeed, individuals must not only demonstrate that the method of execution is unconstitutional, but also offer an alternative. In a court filing to which all plaintiffs signed up, attorneys offered four alternative methods, but Friot asked each plaintiff to state their specific preference. Six of the plaintiffs refused to do so, citing primarily religious or ethical objections to participating in their own murder.

Friot last year decided the case could go to trial – but he dismissed the six plaintiffs who had not indicated their preferred method of death. In a footnote, Friot appeared to urge the state to kill these individuals so that their executions could provide evidence as to whether Oklahoma’s method of execution does indeed constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

“Because…six of the plaintiffs in the present case declined to offer an alternate method of execution, there may well be a toll…of Oklahoma’s new protocol by the time this case comes to be.” judged. the other twenty-six plaintiffs,” the judge wrote.

The state followed Friot’s suggestion and quickly set execution dates for those six men – including Donald Grant – plus a seventh man who never stood trial. The six men were later reinstated in the trial, but the state continued to press ahead with the executions.

In October, the first of the group to be executed, John Grant, appeared to be in pain as he lay dying.

“I had never seen anyone breathe like that in my life,” said Julie Gardner, an investigator with the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma, who observed the execution, during a recent audience. “I’ve never seen anyone vomit as much as they vomited, except maybe on a TV show or a horror show,” Gardner added, noting that she didn’t believe she saw the execution team perform a test of conscience on John Grant.

John Grant’s execution prompted the Oklahoma Pardons and Parole Board to vote 3-2 in November to recommends leniency for Bigler Stouffer, who faced a December execution date. “I don’t think any humane society should execute people this way until we figure out how to do it right,” board member Larry Morris said. But Governor Kevin Stitt (right) rejected the council’s recommendation and allowed Stouffer’s execution to proceed.

By the time Donald Grant went before the state pardons and parole board, most members had let go of concerns about the state’s method of execution. Only one member, Adam Luck, voted to grant clemency. Morris, one of the board members who recommended clemency for Stouffer, said at the Donald Grant hearing that he was no longer concerned about the enforcement process after reading a decision from Friot.

Luck, who was the subject to politically motivated attacks by supporters of the death penalty, resigned earlier this month at the request of the governor.

The lethal injection trial is scheduled to begin in late February. Meanwhile, the state continues to kill people using a method that could soon be ruled unconstitutional, and the courts won’t stop it.

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