Two Oklahoma death row inmates will be executed by lethal injection after court denied their bid to be put to death by firing squad

  • A federal judge declined to temporarily halt the executions of Oklahoma inmates Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle in the upcoming weeks  
  • The men sought to avoid the state's three-drug lethal injection method and instead asked to be put to death by firing squad 
  • Grant is scheduled to be put to death on January 27, while Postelle is set for execution on February 17 
  • Grant was convicted of killing two Del City hotel workers in 2001, while Postelle was sentenced to die for his role in a 2005 quadruple slaying
  • Experts said that John Grant vomited and convulsed after being injected with midazolam because he consumed too much soda and potato chips
  • Friot determined that Grant and Postelle selected the firing squad method too late to be included in a lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's lethal injection method

Two Oklahoma death row inmates are set to be executed by lethal injection after the courts denied their bid to be executed by firing squad.  

On Friday, a federal judge declined to temporarily halt the executions of Oklahoma inmates Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle, 35, in the upcoming weeks after the men sought to avoid the state's three-drug lethal injection method and instead asked to be put to death by firing squad. 

Grant, 45, was convicted of killing two Del City hotel workers, Brenda McElyea and Felicia Suzette Smith, in 2001. Postelle was convicted and sentenced to die for his role in the quadruple slaying of James Alderson, Terry Smith, Donnie Swindle and Amy Wright, in 2005 believing they had injured his dad in a motorcycle accident. 

Pictured: Donald Anthony Grant. Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for Grant, who was convicted of killing two Del City hotel workers in 2001
Gilbert Postelle, pictured, who the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 on December 1, 2021, to reject clemency for Postelle, who was convicted and sentenced to die for his role in a quadruple slaying in 2005

Pictured: Donald Anthony Grant, left, and Gilbert Postelle, right, Oklahoma death row inmates who requested a firing squad instead of lethal injection after recent botched executions

Pictured: the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma

Pictured: the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma

Grant is scheduled to be put to death January 27, while Postelle is set for execution February 17. 

In his order, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot wrote that Grant and Postelle were not likely to succeed in their claims that Oklahoma´s three-drug lethal injection method presents the risk of subjecting them to severe pain and suffering.

Friot oversaw a hearing on Monday that included testimony from several doctors and witnesses to the October execution of John Grant, who vomited and convulsed on the gurney after being injected with midazolam, a sedative that is the first of Oklahoma's three-drug method.

Friot also heard testimony from the prison official who oversaw John Grant's execution. The judge said the inmate's consumption of large amounts of soda and potato chips right before his execution likely led to the problems.

Felecia Suzette Smith, 42
Brenda McElyea, 28

Donald Grant, 45, was convicted of killing two Del City hotel workers, Brenda McElyea and Felicia Suzette Smith, in 2001

Donnie Swindle
Terry Smith

Postelle was convicted and sentenced to die for his role in the quadruple slaying of James Alderson, Terry Smith, Donnie Swindle and Amy Wright in 2005

James Alderson
Amy Wright

Postelle was convicted of killing four people in 2005 he believed had injured his dad in a motorcycle accident

'The result of that for Grant was that, soon after the first drug was pushed into the IV line, and as he lay unconscious, restrained in a supine position on the gurney, Grant's gastric contents flowed toward his head and out of his mouth,' Friot wrote. 

'Combined with that was the fact that - also because he was unconscious and lying supine - Grant´s airway was obstructed by his tongue, causing him to noticeably struggle to breathe while, at essentially the same time, regurgitating.

'The important point here is that all of this occurred while Grant was unconscious and insensate to pain as a result of the administration of a massive dose of midazolam,' he concluded. 

Friot also determined that Donald Grant and Postelle selected an alternative method of execution, firing squad, too late to be included in a separate lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's lethal injection method as unconstitutional.

A hearing in that case, in which more than two dozen death row inmates are challenging the state's three-drug method, is scheduled to begin next month.  

John Marion Grant (pictured last year) vomited and convulsed during his execution in Oklahoma
He was serving a 130-year prison sentence for several armed robberies when he dragged prison cafeteria worker Gay Carter (pictured) into a mop closet and stabbed her 16 times

John Marion Grant (left) vomited and convulsed during his execution in Oklahoma for the killing of Gay Carter (right)

Postelle, while testifying in a hearing for clemency in December, said he had used meth for days before the killings and remembered little about them.

'I do understand that I'm guilty and I accept that,' he said. 'There's nothing more that I know to say to you all than I am truly sorry for what I've done to all these families.'

Postelle's daughter and wife urged the board to recommend his life be spared.

'My dad is my inspiration. He keeps me going. He calls me his beautiful daughter and says he's proud of me,' Kaylei Johnson told the board. 'I don't want to lose my dad.'

But members of the victims' families urged the panel to reject clemency.

'We never got to see him after he was murdered because his body was riddled and torn with bullets,' said Swindle's mother, Mary Jo Swindle. 'You may be a changed man, but my son and three others are still dead.'

At a clemency hearing for Grant in November, he expressed 'deep, sincere remorse,' and the defense said he was brain damaged and mentally ill.

McElyea's sister, Shirl Filcher, also attended the hearing and pushed for the board to reject clemency, recalling when she had to tell their father that McElyea had been killed.

'I had to call my dad and tell him his daughter, his baby girl, was dead,' Filcher said. 'I had never seen him cry, but that night I heard him weep and it broke my heart.'   

Friot, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, required all the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's lethal injection to select an alternative method of execution.

Oklahoma has never used firing squad as a method of executing prisoners since statehood, but current state law does allow for its use if other methods, like lethal injection, were determined to be unconstitutional or otherwise unavailable.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections does not currently have execution protocols in place for any method other than lethal injection.

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.

One of Donald Grant's federal public defenders, Emma Rolls, declined to comment on the judge's ruling but filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Advertisement

Court denies two Oklahoma death row inmates bid to be put to death by firing squad

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.