2 Oklahoma Death Row Inmates Seek Firing Squad Instead of Lethal Injection

Death Row Inmates Ask for Execution by Firing Squad
Gilbert Postelle, left, and Donald Grant.Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections

Two men sentenced to death in Oklahoma have asked for firing squads instead of the state's problematic three-step lethal injection process.

Two Oklahoma Death Row inmates would prefer to be executed by firing squad than undergo the state's troubled, three-drug lethal injection process, an attorney told a federal judge Monday.

Gilbert Postelle and Donald Grant, both convicted murderers, are asking U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot for a temporary injunction that would stop their upcoming executions until Friot hears a pending case on whether the state's lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

That trial is scheduled to begin in February. Grant is scheduled to die on Jan. 27. Postelle's execution date is Feb. 17.

“While it may be gruesome to look at, we all agree it will be quicker,” attorney Jim Stronski told Friot during a hearing in Oklahoma City.

Dr. James Williams, an emergency medicine specialist from Texas, was called as an expert witness. He said he has more than 40,000 hours of emergency room experience and has studied firing squads. 

He testified that a firing squad employing at least four high-powered rifles would provide a quick and painless death. That method, he said, was extremely unlikely to be botched as compared to lethal injection.

Oklahoma recently ended a six-year moratorium on such punishments after a series of botched executions that were caused by drug mix-ups and the 2014 death of inmate Clayton Lockett, who struggled while strapped to a gurney for 43 minutes before ultimately succumbing.

Executions resumed in October, with the death of John Marion Grant, 60, who began convulsing and vomiting after the first injection, of the sedative midazolam, was administered.  He was declared unconscious about 15 minutes later, The Associated Press reported, and declared dead six minutes after that.

More than two dozen Oklahoma death row inmates are represented in a federal lawsuit challenging state protocols for lethal injections, claiming the method is unconstitutional.

Judge Friot said he hoped to rule on the firing squad petition filed on behalf of Postelle and Grant by the end of this week. "There’s a lot for me to get my mind around,” he said in court.

Grant was sentenced to death for killing two people in 2001. His lawyers said he is mentally ill and shouldn't be executed. Postelle was convicted of murdering four people in 2005.

They were both denied clemency late last year.

There have been only three executions by firing squad in the U.S. since the death penalty was restored in 1976, all of them in Utah. Gary Gilmore was shot to death in 1977, followed by John Albert Taylor in 1996 and Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010.

The state of Oklahoma has not used firing squads as a means of execution, but laws provide for its use if other means, including lethal injection, are deemed unconstitutional or unavailable. 

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