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A federal appeals court temporarily blocked the upcoming executions of two Oklahoma prisoners, handing another setback to efforts to resume executions after several botched lethal injections derailed the state’s death penalty system six years ago.

a hand holding a cellphone: Julius Jones’s high school friend and Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Jimmy Lawson shows a photo of him and Jones, right, on Aug. 6, 2021 from their John Marshall High School prom in Oklahoma City. Julius Jones, who is a prison inmate on death row at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell says he was wrongly convicted Howell’s killing. © Joshua Lott/The Washington Post Julius Jones’s high school friend and Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Jimmy Lawson shows a photo of him and Jones, right, on Aug. 6, 2021 from their John Marshall High School prom in Oklahoma City. Julius Jones, who is a prison inmate on death row at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell says he was wrongly convicted Howell’s killing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit late Wednesday afternoon partially granted a motion to stay the executions of John Marion Grant and Julius Jones. The decision came barely 24 hours before Grant, 60, was scheduled to die. Jones, 41, is scheduled for execution Nov. 18.

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Dale Baich, the federal public defender representing Grant, Jones and five other prisoners with death warrants, praised the court’s decision.

“The Tenth Circuit did the right thing by blocking Mr. Grant’s execution on Thursday,” Baich said in a statement. “Today’s order should prevent the State from carrying out executions until the federal district court addresses the ‘credible expert criticism’ it identified in Oklahoma’s execution procedure. Those issues will be carefully reviewed by the court at the trial scheduled in February.”

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Oklahoma Attorney General John M. O’Connor (R) will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, a spokesperson for his office told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will vacate the stay so that justice can finally be served for the people of Oklahoma, including the families of the victims of these horrific crimes,” the attorney general’s office said.

Oklahoma’s death penalty system attracted international attention after the botched executions of Clayton Lockett in 2014 and Charles Warner in 2015 and the nearly botched execution of Richard Glossip months after Warner. Glossip’s lethal injection was called off at the last minute after Department of Corrections officials realized that they had the wrong drugs, a mistake that led to investigations and what was expected to be a temporary moratorium on executions.

Julius Jones. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP, File) © AP/AP Julius Jones. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP, File)

The state’s execution protocols were found to be muddled by “inexcusable failure,” according to a grand jury report issued in 2016.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections addressed lapses with training for executions “to ensure what happened in the past won’t happen again,” lawyers for the state said during a 2020 court hearing.

John Marion Grant (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP) © AP/AP John Marion Grant (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)

Deborah W. Denno, a Fordham University law professor who studies the death penalty, said states such as Oklahoma have always shrouded their execution protocols in secrecy, including how they train staffers and where they sources lethal drugs.

“Oklahoma was the first to come up with lethal injections,” and the first to use the sedative midazolam, Denno told The Post. “They have tried to be at the forefront of different ways of executing people.

“It says something about the state, and definitely says something about its department of corrections and its effort to be the first and try new things despite them ending in debacle.”

For years, Oklahoma has been among the nation’s most prolific death penalty states, ranking third behind Texas and Virginia, the latter of which abolished the death penalty in March.

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Robert Dunham of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center was more blunt: “Oklahoma says it has provided the training, but given their history of botches, ‘Trust me, I’m Oklahoma’ is not a satisfactory response.”

Several death-row prisoners with execution dates are party to a lawsuit challenging the state’s three-drug execution protocol. The court declined to halt the executions of five other Oklahoma death-row prisoners scheduled for execution between December 2021 and March 2022.

Jones was convicted of murder after killing a man in 1999 during a carjacking gone wrong. Grant was convicted of killing a cafeteria worker in 1998, according to the Associated Press. Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for Grant earlier this month, while it recommended Jones’s sentence be commuted; Jones has claimed innocence in his case. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said he would wait for the board to vote on clemency for Jones at a Nov. 1 hearing before taking action.

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Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/oklahoma-turns-to-supreme-court-after-long-delayed-executions-are-halted-again/ar-AAQ1TRK

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