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January 27, 2022

Oklahoma completes first execution of 2022

As reported in this AP piece, "Oklahoma executed a man Thursday for the brutal slayings of two hotel workers during a robbery in 2001."  Here is more about the first execution completed in the United States in 2022:

Donald Grant, 46, received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and was declared dead at 10:16 a.m. It was the first execution in the U.S. in 2022 and the third in Oklahoma since the state resumed lethal injections in October following a nearly seven-year hiatus....

Shirl Pilcher, the sister of one of Grant's victims, Brenda McElyea, said her family felt that justice had been served. “Although Donald Grant's execution does not bring Brenda back, it allows us all to finally move forward knowing justice was served," Pilcher said after witnessing his execution.

Grant had asked a federal judge to temporarily halt his execution, arguing that he should be reinstated as a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection protocol as presenting a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering. But both a federal judge and a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver previously denied that request.  The U.S. Supreme Court denied Grant’s request on Wednesday.

Several Oklahoma death row inmates with pending execution dates have sought to delay their executions after John Grant convulsed on the gurney and vomited after receiving the first dose of midazolam, a sedative, during his October execution.  John Grant's execution was the state's first since problems with the state's lethal injection protocols in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium.

Richard Glossip was just hours away from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug.  It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.  The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

During a clemency hearing in November, Donald Grant admitted killing Brenda McElyea and Felicia Suzette Smith so that there would be no witnesses to his robbery of the Del City hotel. Court records show both women were shot and stabbed, and Smith was also bludgeoned.  Prosecutors say both women also begged him to spare their lives before he killed them. During November's hearing, he expressed “deep, sincere remorse” and apologized for the killings, but the state’s Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 against recommending clemency....

Two of Donald Grant's attorneys, Susan Otto and Emma Rolls from the federal public defender's office, argued that he was mentally ill and had suffered brain damage that made him a candidate for mercy.  They also discussed Grant’s childhood growing up in a New York City housing project during the crack epidemic of the 1980s, a time when he was frequently beaten and members of his family experienced alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness.  But the board also heard from members of McElyea's family, who tearfully urged them to reject clemency for him.

January 27, 2022 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

Comments

Justice served.

Posted by: Federalist | Jan 27, 2022 1:09:37 PM

"During a clemency hearing in November, Donald Grant admitted killing Brenda McElyea and Felicia Suzette Smith so that there would be no witnesses to his robbery of the Del City hotel. Court records show both women were shot and stabbed, and Smith was also bludgeoned. Prosecutors say both women also begged him to spare their lives before he killed them."

Then if Grant experienced pain during his execution, that's just too bad. Federalist is spot-on.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2022 1:56:08 PM

Bill Otis: As you requested, on the 17th I made a lengthy reply to your query about my wrongful conviction, in the "No Justice, No Pleas" thread. Please confirm that you've read it and plan to give a full response there. Thanks.

I apologize for the off-topic message in this thread, but I have no other way to get your attention.

Posted by: Keith Lynch | Jan 27, 2022 5:41:15 PM

Keith Lynch --

I have read it but do not plan a full response, or much of any response beyond this note. Your reply did not include the crucial thing one would need, to wit, a transcript of exactly what the judge said to you and what you said to the judge when you pleaded guilty. You also said that you signed court papers related toy your guilty plea without reading them, which, in a matter of such great importance, I find implausible. Overall, you provide a self-serving and almost entirely undocumented rendition of events 45 years ago which you concede you do not fully recall. You also seemed to suggest, but were hazy about it, that you kind of went along with the alleged police suggestion that you dreamed about committing the burglary. You acknowledge that the police gave you Miranda warnings, but very oddly you never asked for the questioning to cease or for a lawyer, even after the cops, according to your account, started to be tricky and manipulative in their treatment of you. I just find that hard to believe, and in no event would I try to reach a judgment hearing just one side of the story and without any of the relevant documentation.

You also initially said that the Virginia higher courts accepted your innocence when you sought review, and denied your appeals only because you were out of time. You then took that back and admitted that the courts did not say anything about your (claim of) innocence. Can you see why that creates some doubts?

Lastly, while some of what you say suggests to me that you're playing it straight (and some suggests otherwise), in no event do I OWE you a response, or any further involvement with your story. Your apparent contrary belief is incorrect. I don't know you, I'm not your lawyer, and I had no role in your difficulties, such as they may have been so long ago. As for the future, I wish you the best.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2022 6:13:33 PM

> Your reply did not include the crucial thing one would need,
> to wit, a transcript of exactly what the judge said to you
> and what you said to the judge when you pleaded guilty.

I was never provided with any such transcript. Today, I believe
that most likely the only record was stenographic, that to get a
transcript I would have had to pay money I didn't have, and that
the stenographic record was probably destroyed decades ago. I
could be mistaken, which is why I suggested you, who know much
more about such things than I do, could try to find the record
if it still exists. Maybe it's on PACER, I don't know.

I certainly hope than in today's era of inexpensive disk space,
that every court hearing is recorded in audio and video and
preserved for the lifetime of everyone present.

> You also said that you signed court papers related toy your
> guilty plea without reading them, which, in a matter of such
> great importance, I find implausible.

You find it implausible that a young white person who had always
lived in the suburbs and never been in trouble, and whose parents
had never been in trouble, and whose only previous contact with
police was being groomed by Officer Friendly in elementary school
along with all my classmates, trusted the authorities?

> Overall, you provide a self-serving and almost entirely
> undocumented rendition of events 45 years ago which you concede
> you do not fully recall.

I recall the most important facts: That I was completely
innocent, and that I trusted and cooperated fully with the
authorities including my court-appointed lawyer, and that
as a result I was falsely convicted of a felony.

I also recall that I said that it was 44 years ago, not 45.
Did you misremember what I said, or are you testing me?

> You also seemed to suggest, but were hazy about it, that you
> kind of went along with the alleged police suggestion that you
> dreamed about committing the burglary.

No, I did not. I didn't have those bad dreams until after my
interrogation, and I never mentioned them to anyone until years
later. The police never suggested anything about my dreams.

> You acknowledge that the police gave you Miranda warnings, but
> very oddly you never asked for the questioning to cease or
> for a lawyer, even after the cops, according to your account,
> started to be tricky and manipulative in their treatment of you.

I didn't realize they were being tricky and manipulative until
after the interrogation was over. I believed they were working
in good faith, and that cops never lie. One rogue cop might lie
until he was caught and fired, but certainly not several of them
together. Not until much later did I realize that I had been
mis-educated and they are in fact profoundly dishonest.

If I'm ever called for jury duty, I would completely disregard
all police testimony. Since you obviously don't trust them
either, how did you work as a prosecutor? Aren't prosecutors,
like all lawyers, forbidden from calling someone they don't
trust as their witness?

> I just find that hard to believe, and in no event would I try
> to reach a judgment hearing just one side of the story and
> without any of the relevant documentation.

If I were as dishonest as you apparently think I am, wouldn't I
provide fake documentation? These days, thanks to the Internet,
it's easy to get examples of what such documentation looks like. To
confirm that it was real, you'd have to check with courts, PACER, or
other official sources. So why not simply do that in the first place?
Arlington Courthouse, where most such records would presumably be, is
within easy walking distance of your workplace.

> You also initially said that the Virginia higher courts accepted
> your innocence when you sought review, and denied your appeals
> only because you were out of time. You then took that back and
> admitted that the courts did not say anything about your (claim
> of) innocence. Can you see why that creates some doubts?

My exact wording was, "The Virginia courts did not dispute my
proof, but said it was irrelevant due to being untimely, so my
conviction stands." I stand by that. It's easy to confirm the
existence of Virginia's infamous 21-day rule. It's true that I
don't know for certain whether the lawyer Reisler hired attempted
to appeal my case and was shot down by a court due to that rule,
or whether he never filed in the first place because he knew that
that would happen. What difference does it make?

> Lastly, while some of what you say suggests to me that you're
> playing it straight (and some suggests otherwise), in no event do
> I OWE you a response, or any further involvement with your story.

I never said otherwise. You were the one who asked for details
on my case. I provided them.

It would, however, be courteous, given that you have insinuated
that I'm dishonest or at least mistaken, and implied that you're
curious enough to read my responses and (presumably) check court
records to see if I'm making it all up, to, after reading those
records, post a public apology, or at least a confirmation that I
am indeed telling the truth.

> Your apparent contrary belief is incorrect. I don't know you,
> I'm not your lawyer,

I never asked you for any legal advice or services.

> and I had no role in your difficulties, such as they may have
> been so long ago. As for the future, I wish you the best.

You had a role in the profoundly dysfunctional criminal justice
system. Assuming you're a moral person, I'd think you'd want to
know just how broken it is, if you don't already. Especially if,
as Wikipedia claims, you're still teaching law.

Changing the subject from my case to cases with defective plea-bargain
allocutions in general, I refer you to the case of my friend Theodore
William Wells, federal prisoner number 12561-050. He was coerced into
pleading guilty to kidnapping, and was sentenced to ten years. I've
seen a transcript of his allocution, and confirmed that it left out
the element of preventing the alleged victim from leaving. Nobody
ever claimed that she wasn't free to leave at any time. She arrived
at Wells's home by Greyhound bus (crossing a state line), and the next
day from Wells's house phoned friends to come and pick her up, which
they did, using directions that Wells provided to them. Those facts
are all undisputed. I'm sure you can easily find a copy of that
defective allocution yourself. Given that you're interested in the
legitimacy of plea bargains, please do so.

Posted by: Keith Lynch | Jan 29, 2022 4:36:24 PM

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