Oklahoma broke a six-year moratorium on executions Thursday in grisly fashion as the prisoner put to death convulsed and vomited as he died.
When the executioners administered a sedative, midazolam, to John Grant, 60, as he was strapped to a gurney, he began seizing and vomiting, according to the Associated Press, which sent a reporter to witness the execution. Before the prison raised the curtain to allow viewers to see the execution chamber, he yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” and swore. Executioners wiped vomit from his neck and face before injecting him with the other two drugs in the fatal cocktail, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. He was declared dead 21 minutes later.
Grant had been convicted of murdering a prison cafeteria worker by stabbing her to death with a homemade shiv in 1998. He had been serving a 130-year sentence for armed robbery.
“At least now we are starting to get justice for our loved ones,” said Pamela Gay Carter, the daughter of Grant’s victim, Gay Carter. “The death penalty is about protecting future victims. Even after Grant was removed from society, he committed an act of violence that took an innocent life.”
Grant’s attorney said in a statement, “John Grant took full responsibility for the murder of Gay Carter, and he spent his years on death row trying to understand and atone for his actions.”
The Supreme Court voted 5-3 to remove stays on Grant and another inmate’s execution issued Wednesday night. The state has scheduled six more executions to take place between now and March 2022, the next on Nov. 18, and officials say they have enough of the three drugs for each sentence to be carried out.
Oklahoma has botched several executions before. In 2015, executioners administered the wrong drug—potassium acetate in place of potassium chloride—to Charles Warner during his execution. Discovery of the mistake came nearly nine months after his death. Hours before the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip the same year, officials realized they had received the wrong drugs. In 2014, Clayton Lockett writhed on the gurney for 43 minutes before he was declared dead. Executioners had likewise given him an incorrect drug cocktail.
The repeated debacles led the state’s chief prison official to order a break in executions.