The Oklahoman

Board denies clemency for Grant

Death row inmate’s execution to be Oct. 28

- Josh Dulaney

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday denied the clemency petition of a death row inmate convicted of murdering a prison worker.

The execution date for John Marion Grant, 60, is set for Oct. 28 at McAlester State Prison.

Grant is scheduled to be the first Oklahoma death row prisoner to be executed since the practice was halted in 2015 after botched lethal injections.

He was serving time for armed robbery when he fatally stabbed 58-yearold Gay Carter with a sharpened screwdrive­r in a kitchen at the Dick Conner Correction­al Center in Hominy.

He was convicted on a first-degree murder charge and sentenced to death in 2000. His appeals have been exhausted.

The board voted 3-2 to deny Grant clemency after a hearing that lasted more than two hours. Board members Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle voted in favor of clemency.

Board members Richard Smothermon, Scott Williams and Larry Morris voted against clemency.

Morris spoke before casting his vote. He said he considered Grant’s rough upbringing before making his decision. Morris said Grant is likely both a hardened criminal and victim of a system that failed him.

“It’s my opinion that the hurdles that he has had in his life were high and difficult, but at the same time I have not heard anything from anyone to suggest that he did not know the difference between right and wrong, and for that reason, my vote is ‘no,’” Morris said.

Grant’s attorneys argued that Grant never had a chance in life.

Grant’s clemency for petition said he was born to a single mother of nine children in abject poverty and he was commonly called “the bastard of the family.”

The family moved to a crime-plagued and violent Oklahoma City housing project when Grant reached school age.

He stole food and clothing for his siblings and wound up in extremely abusive state institutio­ns at age 12 during the 1970s.

The petition said Grant ended up in an adult prison at age 17 following a robbery conviction and had no services to treat his predation and mental illness.

“The state helped to create a broken man,” the clemency petition says.

Grant’s attorneys said extensive abuse and abandonmen­t at the hands of state actors culminated in the “tragic killing of a prison employee who had recently ended a personal relationsh­ip with him.”

They also argued that his court-appointed capital defense attorneys were incompeten­t at trial and did not properly present Grant’s personal history to the jury.

Grant’s attorney, Sarah Jernigan, told the parole board Tuesday that Grant is remorseful about the murder and has changed in prison. Jernigan said Grant has not received a prison disciplina­ry writeup in 12 years.

“We are not asking that there be no punishment,” she said. “Punishment would be the remainder of his life in the worst possible conditions. And so we’re not asking that there be no punishment, but we are asking for mercy, that he be spared from death.”

Grant waived his right to speak at the hearing. Attorneys said he didn’t want to relive traumas of the past.

State prosecutor­s argued that Grant remains a threat to people.

Prosecutor­s said Grant did not cooperate with his trial lawyers and didn’t want his family involved in the case.

They said there is no evidence Grant was abused as a child in state institutio­ns.

Prosecutor­s also said there was no evidence of a personal relationsh­ip between Grant and Carter and that anything beyond her being kind to him was a baseless rumor around the prison.

They also told the board Grant previously threatened an inmate who testified against him and threatened an officer as well.

Prosecutor­s said Grant planned the attack and pulled Carter into a mop room where he stabbed her 16 times with a shank.

Assistant Attorney General Josh Lockett said Grant showed Carter no mercy. He asked the board not to show Grant mercy.

“Gay Carter was just doing her job,” he said. “She had some Windex and some paper towels and she was going about her day, but her normal went to terrifying in an instant when John Grant reached out, yanked her into that mop closet.”

Carter’s daughter, Pam Carter, told the board her mother was kind and loving to everyone. The idea that her mother had a relationsh­ip with Grant is “victimizin­g my mother with these stupid allegation­s.”

Carter worked as a records office clerk at the prison where her mother was murdered. She was working there the day of the gruesome crime. Carter said the death sentence for Grant is just.

“He did kill her and it had to be planned because you just can’t go find a shank,” she said.

Grant is among seven inmates scheduled for execution by lethal injection over the next six months.

Oklahoma’s last scheduled execution was Sept. 30, 2015. Authoritie­s stopped the execution after a doctor discovered the wrong deadly drug — potassium acetate — had been supplied. Officials said afterward the same mistake had been made in an execution in January of that year.

A state grand jury blamed faulty protocols as well as failures by correction­s officials and a pharmacist’s negligence.

State officials in February 2020 announced executions by lethal injection would resume.

They said a reliable supply of the drugs — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — had been found to carry out multiple executions. Officials also said safeguards and training requiremen­ts were in place.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in September set execution dates for Grant and six other inmates convicted of murder. The executions are scheduled through March 10.

A federal judge has ruled that six of the death row inmates can no longer participat­e in a legal challenge to the state’s execution procedures.

Twenty-six other death row inmates remain in the legal challenge. At issue in an Oklahoma City federal court is the use of midazolam — which is a sedative — in lethal injections. Trial is set for Feb. 28.

Among death row inmates scheduled to die is Julius Jones. The high-profile inmate’s execution date has been set for Nov. 18.

Jones, 41, is facing execution for the 1999 fatal shooting of Edmond insurance executive Paul Howell during a carjacking. Jurors chose the death penalty as punishment at a 2002 trial.

Jones’ clemency hearing is scheduled for Oct. 26. His supporters include athletes and entertaine­rs across the country.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has recommende­d Gov. Kevin Stitt commute Jones’ death sentence to life in prison. Jones would be eligible for parole if Stitt commutes his sentence.

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