Stay of execution ordered for two Oklahoma death row inmates
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit granted a temporary motion for stay of execution for two Oklahoma death row inmates on Wednesday, just a day before one of the inmates was scheduled to die by lethal injection.
The appeals court stayed the executions of Julius Jones and John Grant on the basis that they met two criteria required for an execution to be stayed.
Prisoners must show that the execution method chosen by the state — in this case a three-drug lethal injection — presents “a substantial risk of severe pain” and they must also show that the risk of severe pain is substantial when compared to other available alternatives.
Jones and Grant were part of a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection. However, Judge Stephen Friot denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that they and three other inmates sought, clearing the way for their executions in the next six months.
Grant was scheduled to be executed on Oct. 28 while Jones was scheduled to be executed on Nov. 18.
The five inmates were removed from the lawsuit because they did not choose an alternative execution method. These inmates declined to choose the method with which they were executed, citing religious concerns on assisting in what they view as a “suicide.”
The appeals court wrote that though Jones and Grant did not choose an alternative method of execution, it does not mean they did not identify alternatives to lethal injection. The court also wrote that there was no law that requires a prisoner to choose their own method of execution.
The court wrote that the if the inmates are executed they “risk being unable to present what may be a viable Eighth Amendment claim.” The Eighth Amendment protects individuals from “cruel and unusual punishments.”
Grant was sentenced to execution for the murder of a prison cafeteria worker in 1998. Jones was convicted of killing a man during a carjacking in 1999, but has long maintained his innocence.
Dale Baich, the lead attorney representing the inmates, told the KOCO 5 news station, “The 10th Circuit did the right thing by blocking Mr. Grant’s execution on Thursday.”
“Today’s order should prevent the state from carrying out executions until the federal district court addresses the ‘credible expert criticism’ it identified in Oklahoma’s execution procedures. Those issues will be carefully reviewed by the court at the trial scheduled in February,” said Baich.
Jones’s case garnered widespread attention after it was featured on ABC documentary series “The Last Defense,” produced by award-winning actress Viola Davis. Supporters of Jones have pointed to multiple factors that support his innocence in the case.
Jones had an alibi, claiming that he was at home with his family when the carjacking occurred, though his legal team did not present it during his original trial or call on his family to testify. He also does not match the description of the suspect who was only seen by one witness, and multiple people have said in sworn affidavits that another man, who implicated Jones for the killing, admitted to being responsible for the crime himself.
Reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who has used her influence in recent years to call for prison reform, met with Jones last year and offered her assistance in his case.