The Supreme Court Just Allowed the Executions of Two Disabled Black Men

In what activists warn could be the first in a spike of executions this year, Matthew Reeves and Donald Anthony Grant were killed via lethal injection by the states of Alabama and Oklahoma respectively on Thursday, just one month before a constitutional challenge to Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol goes to trial.

The Supreme Court denied an application to stay Grant’s execution on Wednesday, a move overshadowed by the news that Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire. Reeves’s life was in High Court’s hands Thursday as President Joe Biden began the process of selecting a nominee to succeed Breyer, but the justices reversed lower court rulings to allow the execution to proceed in a split 5-4 decision. After legal wrangling was over, Reeves was executed in Holman prison by the state of Alabama.

Both Black and Latino men are the same. make up more thanHalf of all death row in the country is under 50. Activists have long highlighted the systemic racism inherent to the death penalty system.

The killing of Grant and the dramatic, last-minute fight for Reeves’ survival comes “amidst a relatively new phenomena” of forcing prisoners to choose how they will be killed, according Abe Bonowitz, an organizer with Death Penalty Action. Both men were reportedly given a “decision” about how they would be killed but failed to make it in time, according to Bonowitz.

“We’re opening the 2022 execution season with the killing of two Black men who have a mental illness or intellectual disability, with lethal injections, because for whatever reason they didn’t choose the form of execution,” Bonowitz said in an interview on Thursday. “That is only reason they are being killed today.”

In a handwritten letterGrant told a federal judge that he didn’t understand why a lawyer had told him that he had to choose another method than lethal injection to be a part of a class-action lawsuit against Oklahoma for the practice. This could have delayed Grant’s execution. Grant, like others on death row had religious objections to his execution. He chose the method of execution. accordingLegal filings

Reeves’ attorneys filed a lawsuit claiming that the 44-year old was intellectually disabled and functionally inliterate. Prison officials also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing in helping him understand, fill out, and submit a form that allowed him to choose between lethal injection or death in a gas chamber.

Alabama recently built a “system”For smothering people in nitrogen gas after lawmakers gave permission for executions by gaz in 2018. However, the system has not yet been tested on a person in Alabama or any other states that allow gas executions. Experts say nitrogen executions could go wrong, and Alabama officials are still ironing out “protocols” for killing with a gas chamber or similar poison gas delivery system, which are likely to face litigation when complete, according to Bonowitz.

Had Reeves filled out the form requesting to die by gas “hypoxia” rather than lethal injection, he would not have been executed yesterday, Bonowtiz said. .

“Everybody got to choose and he didn’t understand the form or how to fill it out, and that’s why he is up for execution,” Bonowitz said during the last hours of Reeves life. “Those who chose the gas chamber cannot get a date.”

A federal judge ruled that Reeves was likely winning his lawsuit and issued a stay to the execution. This was upheld by an appeals Court. The State of Alabama requested the Supreme Court to lift Reeves’ stay so that he could be executed by lethal injection Thursday. Five of the court’s conservative justices agreed, with Justices Elena Kagan, Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett dissenting. Barrett is a conservative Catholic and the Catholic Church now officially recognizes Barrett as such. opposes the death penalty.

Lethal injection is a controversial topic. Many pharmaceutical companies refuse state permission to use the medications required for such executions. Lethal injection also faces legal challenges — a federal judge in Ohio ruled that state’s injection protocol was unconstitutional in 2017 — pushing state lawmakers to consider abolishing the deathPenalty or the use of other methods for state-perpetrated killing. Oklahoma prison officials sought nitrogen gas as an alternative for lethal injection. stalled last yearThe state resumed its notorious lethal injection program.

A pair of apparently torturous lethal injections in 2014 and 2015 shocked the public and led to a moratorium on the execution method in Oklahoma, but last year state officials announced a new “protocol” for administering a three-drug cocktail that ultimately kills the recipient. When the Supreme Court denied his pleaIn October 2021, John Marian Grant (no connection to Donald Grant) was the first person to die from lethal injection following the moratorium. Grant repeatedly gasped for air, convulsed andDuring the first and second phases, the execution was stopped.

Donald Grant and Gilberte Postelle, a man who is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma next month, pointed to John Grant’s death as evidence of “severe pain and suffering” that violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Grant and Postelle requested to be executed by firing squad, which they claimed would be more painful, in order to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit against lethal injectables filed by death row inmates. The Supreme Court refused to allow them to intervene. Postelle will die on February 17, a week before the trial.

In Canada, the death penalty is still legal 27 statesBut lawmakers in UtahOhio, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other states where many people are currently on death row are looking at abolishing the death penalty. California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and the federal government have all declared a moratorium for executions. As lethal injection continues to be challenged in other states, others are moving in the opposite direction. South Carolina, for instance, is in the opposite direction. creating the firing squadIt also allows prisoners to choose to die in an electric chair.

“We can see the end of the death penalty coming in the United States,” Bonowitz said. “But first it’s likely to get bloody.”

Reeves, a low IQ man, was convicted for robbing and killing a man who picked Reeves up on the highway at the ripe old age of 18. Grant was convicted. killing two peopleAfter robbing the hotel where they worked, he tried to cover his tracks in hopes of bonding his girlfriend.

Bonowitz emphasizes that, questions of execution methods aside, advocates’ goal is to entirely abolish the death penalty.

“At the end of the day, for those of us concerned about the death penalty, the issue is not HowWe kill our prisoners but That we kill them at all when the criminal legal system in this country is as broken as it is,” Bonowitz wrote in an email.