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Oklahoma executes Donald Grant, the third death row inmate to be killed since the state resumed capital punishment

Oklahoma Department Of Corrections
Donald A. Grant in 2018.

Updated: January 27 at 2:20 p.m.

For just the third time in seven years, Oklahoma has executed a death row inmate.

Donald Anthony Grant was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 10:16 a.m. Thursday morning. He's the third death row inmate to be killed since the state resumed capital punishment in October after a six-year moratorium. He was 46.

Grant was sentenced to death for the 2001 shooting deaths of Del City hotel workers Brenda McElyea and Felecia Smith during an armed robbery.

Five media members were selected by a random draw to witness the execution: Sean Murphy (Associated Press), Nolan Clay (The Oklahoman), Dillon Richards (KOCO), Graham Brewer (NBC) and Naomi Keitt (KJRH).

The witnesses described the execution as uneventful. Their accounts were largely in line with the December execution of Bigler Stouffer, but drastically different from the October execution of John Marion Grant, who convulsed two dozen times and vomited multiple times during his execution.

Donald Grant's last words were a series of fragmented statements, followed by unintelligible chanting.

McElyea's sister, Shirl Pilcher, spoke for her family following the execution, thanking prosecutors and investigators.

"The memories of the murder, the trial, and the years spent waiting can be replaced with happier members of Brenda. Memories of her laughter, her smile, her wit, her charm and her loving heart," Pilcher said. "I, for one, am ready to remember the beauty of my sister instead of reliving the brutality of her death."

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma
Father Bryan Brooks (right) from the Church of St. Benedict in Broken Arrow leads a small handful of protesters on Thursday outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.

A small handful of protesters quietly waited outside the gates of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester Thursday morning as the execution was taking place.

Father Bryan Brooks from the Church of St. Benedict in Broken Arrow led a prayer. Brooks has been faithfully coming to the prison since the 1990s to appeal for the mercy of God on behalf of the condemned.

"We're here to show peaceful opposition to the use of the death penalty," said Brooks.


Death row inmate Donald A. Grant will be the next of Oklahoma’s death row inmates to be executed on Thursday morning, followed in three weeks by Gilbert Postelle.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an application to temporarily stay Grant's execution.

This follows a federal judge denying Grant and Postelle's attorneys' request on Monday to block their executions. Both were denied clemency by the Pardon and Parole Board in November.

Grant was sentenced to death for the shooting deaths of two hotel workers — 28-year-old Brenda McElyea and 42-year-old Felecia Smith — in Del City during an armed robbery in 2001.

Attorneys for Grant and Postelle argued that the state’s lethal injection protocol exposed the two men to a constitutionally unacceptable risk of severe pain, citing the October 2021 execution of John Grant, who convulsed and vomited before he died.

Oklahoma's method of execution — lethal injection — has been criticized as painful and terrifying, with claims it induces a sense of drowning comparable to the torture tactic of waterboarding.

Oklahoma held off on lethal injections for nearly six years after two botched executions. The state resumed the practice last fall, killing John Grant in October and Bigler Stouffer in December.

The three-drug cocktail is being reviewed for constitutionality in district court in February, but Donald Grant and Postelle are scheduled to be killed before then.

Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
Logan Layden is a reporter and managing editor for StateImpact Oklahoma.
Hannah France is a reporter and producer for KGOU.
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