US Supreme Court lifts stays; Oklahoma to execute man

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court lifted stays of execution Thursday for two Oklahoma men, allowing the state to move forward with its first lethal injection in more than six years.

The high court lifted stays for John Marion Grant and Julius Jones that the 10th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals put in place a day earlier. The two men are among more than two dozen Oklahoma death row inmates who are challenging the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocols, arguing that the method creates a substantial risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Grant, 60, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 4 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1998 stabbing death of a prison cafeteria worker. Jones is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 18.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling and allow the state on Thursday to carry out its first execution in more than six years.

The Oklahoma attorney general’s office filed its appeal to the nation’s highest court hours before the scheduled execution of John Marion Grant, 60. A three-member panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued temporary stays of execution Wednesday for Grant and Julius Jones, whose lethal injection is set for Nov. 18.

Oklahoma’s appeal to the Supreme Court on Wednesday night said the state and victims’ families have “invested much effort in preparing for the executions.”

“The setting of new execution dates triggered clemency hearings that involved not only significant preparation for State entities, but also burdensome emotional labor and trauma for the victims’ families,” the state wrote. ”A continued stay now, which would require the setting of an execution date at some later date, could potentially lead to yet another clemency hearing, further impacting the victims. The victims do not deserve the retraumatization, dashed expectations, and delayed justice continuing the stays would entail.”

Grant was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1998 stabbing death of prison cafeteria worker Gay Carter. Jones’ execution is set for Nov. 18.

The Denver-based 10th Circuit ruled that U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot in Oklahoma erred when he removed Grant, Jones and three other inmates from a lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocols because they did not designate an alternative method of execution. The court determined that the inmates did identify alternate techniques in their complaint, even if they didn’t specifically check a box designating the specific method they would use.

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor had pushed for seven executions to be scheduled through March, and prison officials announced this week that they have confirmed a source to supply all the drugs needed for those executions.

“Extensive validations and redundancies have been implemented since the last execution in order to ensure that the process works as intended,” the Department of Corrections said in a statement.

Oklahoma has historically had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, but a series of problematic lethal injections 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 that the same wrong drug had been used in a January 2015 execution.

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.

While the moratorium was in place, Oklahoma moved ahead with plans to use nitrogen gas to execute inmates, but ultimately scrapped that idea and announced last year it planned to resume executions using the same three-drug lethal injection protocol that was used during the flawed lethal injections. The three drugs are midazolam, a sedative; vecuronium bromide, a paralytic; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.