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Julius Jones execution: Attorneys file emergency motion for injunction hours before Oklahoma levied death sentence

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Julius Jones supporters praying in Capitol

Julius Jones supporters praying during a vigil outside of the governors office Nov.  16.

Attorneys for Julius Jones and other death row inmates filed an emergency motion in federal district court Thursday morning for an injunction to stay his execution. The motion was then referred to Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti.

The lawyers argue the basis for the filing is new evidence from inmate John Grant’s execution on Oct. 28. According to the motion, Julie Gardner, an investigator with the Capital Habeas Unit of the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Oklahoma City — the office that represented Grant — witnessed the execution.

Gardner, who has previously witnessed six executions, said Grant’s execution — which involved use of the controversial anesthetic midazolam instead of a general anesthetic — consisted of “substantial suffering,” citing Grant’s numerous convulsions and vomiting. 

Associated Press journalist Sean Murphy reported that Grant “convulsed and vomited” after midazolam was administered. Murphy, who said he has witnessed “around 14” executions, added he’s never seen an inmate vomit during an execution.

According to the motion, roughly seven minutes into the execution, a person approached Grant to do a “consciousness check.” As they approached, Grant reportedly raised and turned his head and attempted to raise and move his shoulder that was strapped down.

Attorneys say the new evidence throws into question whether Grant was still conscious when the lethal drugs were administered, citing the consciousness check that was administered consisted of turning Grant’s head, wiping the vomit from his mouth, removing Grant’s glasses and wiping his eyes.

Grant was pronounced dead about 13 minutes after the administration of the two remaining drugs, including vecuronium bromide, which serves as a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Dr. Michael Weinberger, a professor at Columbia University Medical School, practicing board-certified anesthesiologist and board-certified pain medicine specialist, is cited in the motion, saying the use of midazolam and the consciousness check, among other issues, “put prisoners at a substantial risk of severe pain and suffering.”

Dr. Joe Cohen, a pathologist involved in the case of a prior Oklahoma death row inmate, reviewed the autopsy and agreed, citing Grant’s full-body convulsions and movements “consistent with air hunger.”

Julius Jones’ sentence was commuted from death to life without the possibility of parole Thursday afternoon.

Beth Wallis is a senior journalism major and political science minor, and news editor for The Daily. Previously, she worked as a junior news reporter covering university research and news managing editor.

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