Inmates ask for firing squad in latest death row controversy

Oklahoma’s current method of injecting death row inmates could soon be declared unconstitutional

Tom Fenton
Tuesday 11 January 2022 19:52
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Two prison inmates on death row in Oklahoma have requested death by firing squad as a less problematic alternative to the state’s current method of lethal injection.

Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle, who otherwise would be facing the heavily-criticised ‘three-drug’ injection, have appealed to US District Judge Stephen Friot to grant them a temporary injunction, HuffPost reports.

This would effectively delay their upcoming executions until a trial can be held to decide whether Oklahoma’s three-drug method is in fact constitutional.

“While it may be gruesome to look at, we all agree it will be quicker,” Jim Stronski, who is Mr Grant’s attorney, told Friot after a day-long hearing in Oklahoma City.

“There’s a lot for me to get my mind around,” Judge Friot said.

A trial is set to go before Mr Friot on 28 February, just over a month after Grant is scheduled to be put to death, while Postelle is set to be executed on 17 February.

Oklahoma has never sanctioned the use of a firing squad as a method of execution in its history as a state. However, current state law does leave open the possibility of introducing it, if a lethal injection was suddenly found to be unconstitutional.

One of the main hurdles for getting this method approved is the fact that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections does not have execution protocols in place for any method other than lethal injection as things stand.

Death Penalty-Oklahoma

Judge Friot wasn't able to issue a decision on the two inmate’s motion on Monday, although he did declare his desire to resolve the issue by the end of the week.

The judge has heard from several experts regarding the motion, including Dr James Williams, an emergency medicine specialist from Texas who has extensively covered the use of firing squads.

The doctor stated (via HuffPost) that execution by firing squad creates at “cardiac bubble” of the heart, meaning that death would come very quickly with little pain for the inmate.

Judge Friot also heard testimony from Justin Farris, chief of operations at the Department of Corrections, who oversaw two lethal injection executions last year.

Farris, who was inside the chamber for both deaths, described the pair of injections as being on “opposite ends of the spectrum”.

One of the men – who was declared dead after vomiting and convulsing on the gurney – was angry, hurling expletives and resisting the execution by trying to flex his arms and legs, Farris claimed. The other, meanwhile, “was just as polite as you can imagine under the circumstances”.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to its Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty declaration – with The Independent being the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives such as Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative, and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

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