Oklahoma's execution of Donald Grant will be first in nation in 2022

·3 min read

McALESTER — Oklahoma is set to carry out the nation's first execution of 2022 at a time opposition to the death penalty continues to grow.

Admitted double murderer Donald Anthony Grant faces execution at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied his request for an emergency stay.

Alabama also planned to carry out an execution Thursday but an appeals court upheld a stay. A dozen other executions are set this year across the country. The majority are in Texas and Ohio.

Donald Grant
Donald Grant

Most states no longer carry out executions — 23 have abolished the death penalty and three more have governor-imposed moratoriums.

Utah could be next. A repeal bill was filed there in January.

"It has Republican sponsors in both houses," the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center said Wednesday.

"Abolition bills were introduced in 14 states last year," Robert Dunham said.

More: Judge refuses to stay Oklahoma executions of Donald Grant and Gilbert Ray Postelle

"Abolition bills are expected to be introduced in about half of the states that have the death penalty," he said of 2022. "And they'll be serious in a number of the states.

"The pattern we're seeing is that every year, or every two years, another state is abolishing the death penalty."

Virginia abolished the death penalty last year, Colorado abolished it in 2020 and New Hampshire abolished it in 2019.

In Oklahoma, voters in 2016 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment stating the death penalty is not a cruel or unusual punishment.

The execution table is shown in this image from a video released by the Oklahoma Corrections Department.
The execution table is shown in this image from a video released by the Oklahoma Corrections Department.

A state legislator, though, wants to put the issue before voters again.

“We have seen a growing movement, in the last year especially, of people calling for Oklahoma to abolish the death penalty. And I want to give people a chance to express that on the ballot,” Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, said earlier this month.

Turner filed legislation to put on the ballot a proposed constitutional prohibition of capital punishment. The legislation is unlikely to get enough support to advance.

“Nearly 200,000 more Oklahomans voted in the last election than in 2016,” Turner said. "With more information, views around this issue are changing, and we should give people a chance to express those new beliefs.”

What did Donald Grant do?

Grant, 46, was sentenced to death for murdering two workers at a LaQuinta Inn in Del City during a 2001 robbery.

He confessed to committing the robbery to bail his girlfriend out of jail. He also admitted he killed manager Brenda McElyea and front desk clerk Suzette Smith so they couldn't identify him.

Oklahoma carried out two executions by lethal injection last year and has one more scheduled this year. Gilbert Ray Postelle faces execution Feb.17.

The Supreme Court also refused Wednesday to block Postelle's execution.

Their attorneys had complained that they face a substantial risk of severe suffering and pain because of issues with the first drug, the sedative midazolam.

"Oklahoma’s track record now includes the October ... execution of John Grant where he repeatedly vomited, heaved and gasped for air," the attorneys told justices.

Attorney General John O'Connor and his assistants opposed the stay request.

They told justices an Oklahoma City federal judge had determined that John Grant was already unconscious and insensate to pain when he vomited and could no longer breathe.

An anesthesiologist who witnessed the October execution testified as an expert for the state at a hearing that the inmate appeared to be unconscious 30 to 45 seconds after the midazolam began to flow.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma set to carry out first execution of 2022 with Donald Grant