MCALESTER, Okla. — Somber prayer chants arose outside Oklahoma’s maximum-security prison as the state executed a third inmate since October.

Fr. Bryan Brooks, of the Church of St. Benedict in Broken Arrow, led a small group of people in prayer Thursday morning outside the walls of Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester as the state executed admitted double-murderer Donald Grant.

Grant, 46, became America’s first execution of 2022 at 10:16 a.m. Thursday — with former state senator Connie Johnson saying afterward she hopes to abolish the death penalty in the state.

“This is ineffective as a means for a solution to a murder,” Connie Johnson said. “I would take away the death chamber — I would just decommission it for my four years,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who is a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said she hopes decommission the death chamber to end executions during her term if she’s elected governor.

Johnson said her brother was killed in 1981 and forgiving the killer allowed her family to move forward, but it opened her eyes to issues with executions.

“I want to be a voice…to let people know that this is not right, government is better than this,” Johnson said.

Pew Research polls show 60% of American adults support the death penalty for a murder conviction — but only 30% of those supporters believe innocent people are kept safe from being executed.

A Death Penalty Information Center study of FBI Uniform Crime Reports over three decades shows the south consistently has the highest murder rate by region and accounts for more than 80% of executions.

Johnson said human error and other problem cause concern on whether the state can humanely conduct executions.

Grant received the death sentence for admittedly killing two Del City hotel workers in a 2001 robbery. Prosecutors said hotel manager Brenda McElyea and desk clerk Suzette Smith begged for their lives before Grant killed them.

Shirl Filcher, McElyea’s sister, said the execution doesn’t bring Brenda back, but “justice was served” and they can move forward while cherishing fond memories of her.

Prosecutors said Grant fatally shot McElyea, then shot desk clerk Suzette Smith three times in the face, cut her throat and hit her head with various objects.

Grant said in a November clemency hearing he killed the two women so there would be no witnesses to his robbery of the Del City hotel. He apologized for the killings before blaming his actions on the devil.

Defense attorneys said Grant was diagnosed multiple times with schizophrenia and claimed he was unfit to be executed.

Oklahoma’s parole board rejected his clemency with a 4-1 vote. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Grant’s execution stay request.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at 

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