Oklahoma Executions to Proceed after Supreme Court Ruling

This morning, the United States Supreme Court issued its 5-4 opinion in Glossip v. Gross, the case filed by Oklahoma death row inmates claiming that the use of midazolam in the state's lethal injection protocol was a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Despite heated arguments and scathing dissent, the Court's majority opinion found in favor of the state, saying that the plaintiffs failed to prove that midazolam was insufficient to reliably render a person insensate so that he or she would not feel severe pain in execution.

In light of the Court's ruling, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office is expected to notify the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that three inmates involved in the case that they have reached the limit of their appeals. Execution dates will then be set for Richard Eugene Glossip, John Marion Grant, and Benjamin Robert Cole, Sr. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections confirms that it has access to the drugs needed to complete each execution.

Richard Glossip, 51, has been on Oklahoma's death row since 1998, when he was convicted of the murder of Oklahoma City hotel owner Barry Van Treese. Another man, Justin Sneed, admitted that he beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat, but said he did so because Glossip, the hotel manager, offered to pay him $10,000 to kill the owner. Sneed was given a life sentence in exchange for his testimony against Glossip, who was sentenced to death. Glossip continues to maintain that he is innocent.

John Grant, 64, has been on death row since 2000. Grant was already in prison when he killed a civilian prison employee. He used a shank to stab Gay Carter 16 times after the woman, who had been his supervisor in a prison kitchen job, fired him for fighting with another inmate. His defense argued that Grant had untreated borderline personality disorder, and the defendant testified that he "had no recollection of killing or wanting to kill Ms. Carter."

Benjamin Cole, 60, has been a death row inmate since 2004. Cole was convicted of child abuse murder in the death of his 9-month-old daughter Brianna. A few days before Christmas 2002, Cole was playing video games when he was interrupted by the crying of his infant daughter. He went to her crib and bent her legs backwards toward her head to flip her over from her stomach to her back. The force of the injury snapped her spine in two and completely tore through her aorta. He left her lying in the crib and returned to playing video games. 

Even if the United States Supreme Court had ruled against the use of midazolam in lethal injections, Oklahoma was prepared to continue to use the death penalty. In March, the state legislature passed a bill allowing the use of nitrogen hypoxia as a means of execution should lethal injection be ruled unconstitutional. 

Image Credit: Oklahoma Department of Corrections