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2 death row inmates choose firing squad instead of lethal injection

Jail cells (Dreamstime/TNS)
January 11, 2022

Two death row inmates in Oklahoma who are set to be executed soon have chosen a firing squad as an alternative to lethal injection, one of the inmates’ attorneys told a federal judge on Monday.

Inmates Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle asked U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot to allow a temporary injunction that would postpone their executions until the trial determining the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection method is held, according to The Associated Press.

That trial is currently set for Feb. 28, while Grant’s execution is scheduled for Jan. 27 and Postelle’s execution is scheduled for Feb 17.

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

The judge said he would make a decision on the inmates’ request by the end of the week, noting that “there’s a lot for me to get my mind around.”

Dr. James Williams, an emergency medicine specialist with over 40,000 hours of emergency room experience, was among those who testified at the hearing. Williams has also thoroughly studied firing squads.

According to the expert, who had previously suffered a gunshot wound in the chest, firing squads involve shots from a minimum of four high-powered rifles to the “cardiac bundle” of the heart. Williams said the bullets would strike so quickly that an inmate wouldn’t feel any pain, and unlike lethal injection, the chance of a failed execution is extremely low.

The State of Oklahoma has never used firing squad to execute prisoners before; however, state law does allow the more antiquated method to be used if other methods are ruled unconstitutional.

The only execution method currently used by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is lethal injection.

The chief of operations at the Department of Corrections, Justin Farris, also testified before Friot. He explained that lethal injections can elicit dramatically different reactions from inmates.  

John Marion Grant and Bigler Stouffer were each executed last year. Grant was declared dead after vomiting and convulsing on the gurney. Farris said Grant was angry, shouting expletives and resisting execution by flexing his arms and legs. Stouffer, rather, “was just as polite as you can imagine under the circumstances.”

According to Farris, the doctor who oversees lethal injections is paid $15,000 for each execution, in addition to $1,000 for each day of training. The Department of Corrections has banned the release of execution team members’ names.