One week before he was killed in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Donald Grant asked a woman named Sue Hosch a question about his coming execution. “He asked me, did I think it was going to be botched?” Hosch recalled. “And I said, ‘I don’t know.’” As an activist who corresponded with men on death row, Hosch hoped that Grant would die peacefully — “you know, go to sleep.” But he told her that he was scared.
Grant had good reason to be afraid. In his years on death row, he had seen neighbors taken to die whose executions had gone horribly wrong. Since 2014, Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection formula had relied upon midazolam, a sedative that experts warned was inadequate to provide anesthesia. In a lawsuit, attorneys for people on Oklahoma’s death row argued that using midazolam put their clients at risk of “severe pain, needless suffering, and a lingering death.” After a series of disastrous executions made national news, officials announced that they would revise the state’s methods. But when Oklahoma released a new protocol in early 2020, the lethal injection formula remained the same.