Oklahoma execution doctor paid $15,000 each time death penalty carried out

Nolan Clay
Oklahoman

Oklahoma pays a doctor $15,000 per execution for duties that include performing a consciousness check and verifying death during the lethal injection process.

A top corrections official testified about the payments Monday during a hearing in Oklahoma City federal court.

The doctor, who was not identified, does not administer the three drugs used to carry out the death penalty in Oklahoma.

The doctor and an IV team, however, are involved in verifying the drugs are correct and in placing the IV lines.

Justin Farris, the chief of operations at the Oklahoma Corrections Department, recruited the doctor last year.

The execution table is shown in this image from a video released by the Oklahoma Corrections Department.

More:Oklahoma death-row inmate receives stay in execution while legal challenges persist

He said the doctor also is paid $1,000 a day for participating in training leading up to executions. That training usually takes place once a week and twice on the week an execution is scheduled, according to his testimony.

The hearing Monday involved a request by two inmates for execution stays.

Donald A. Grant is set to be executed Jan. 27, and Gilbert Ray Postelle is set to be executed Feb. 17.

Their attorneys complain Oklahoma corrections officials use a sedative, midazolam, that does not work the way they say it will. The attorneys argued inmate John Marion Grant suffocated to death on his own vomit because of it when he was executed in October.

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U.S. District Judge Scott Friot is expected to rule on the request later this week. Inmate Bigler Jobe "Bud" Stouffer II was executed in December after the judge rejected his request for a stay.

Stouffer's attorneys also had complained about midazolam, saying its use would expose him to an unconstitutional level of pain.

More:Bigler Stouffer executed in Oklahoma without problems of previous lethal injections

Donald Grant, 46, was sentenced to death for killing two workers at the LaQuinta Inn in Del City during a 2001 robbery.

Postelle, 35, was convicted of murdering four people on Memorial Day 2005 outside a trailer in Del City. He was sentenced to death for two of the murders and to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the other two.

Their attorneys told the judge Monday they would prefer to be executed by a firing squad.

John Marion Grant was executed Oct. 28 for fatally stabbing a female prison kitchen worker in 1998. Media witnesses reported he repeatedly convulsed and threw up during the procedure.

The judge was told Monday that John Grant was eating and drinking just before a restraint team took him for a shower and then escorted him to the execution chamber.

More:Eyewitnesses to John Grant's execution give conflicting accounts

John Grant was observed "eating potato chips from a large bag and drinking a 2 liter bottle of Pibb Xtra in a hurried manner," investigators noted in an internal report admitted into evidence Monday.

The time was 3:15 p.m., just 45 minutes before the execution was to begin, according to a logbook also admitted into evidence.

During John Grant's execution, the doctor and a nurse came in at one point to clean the vomit from his face, according to testimony.

Donald Grant

Farris oversees the execution procedure from inside the chamber. His role includes reading the death warrant.

He recalled Monday how John Grant cursed him over and over as he read. The official also recalled John Grant saying "he would kill the b---- again."

He recalled Stouffer was just the opposite. He said Stouffer was polite and said "Father forgive them" for a last statement.

During both executions, the doctor did a sternum rub with his knuckles to determine if the inmate was unconscious, according to the testimony.

The doctor also did a check on John Grant involving the eyelids, according to the testimony. The doctor also shook Stouffer and called out Stouffer's name before concluding the inmate was unconscious.