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Oklahoma death row inmates seek firing squad as alternative

“While it may be gruesome to look at, we all agree it will be quicker,” a lawyer for one of the condemned men said.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two Oklahoma death row inmates facing executions in the coming months offered firing squad as a less problematic alternative to the state’s three-drug lethal injection, one of their attorneys told a federal judge on Monday.

The two inmates — Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle — want U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot to grant them a temporary injunction that would delay their upcoming executions until a trial can be held over whether Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection method is constitutional. A trial is set to begin before Friot on Feb. 28, but Grant is scheduled to be put to death on Jan. 27, while Postelle is set for execution on Feb. 17.

“While it may be gruesome to look at, we all agree it will be quicker,” attorney Jim Stronski told Friot after a daylong hearing in Oklahoma City.

Friot did not issue a decision Monday on the inmates’ motion, but said he hoped to release an order by the end of the week.

“There’s a lot for me to get my mind around,” Friot said.

Among the experts who testified was Dr. James Williams, an emergency medicine specialist from Texas who has more than 40,000 hours of emergency room experience and who has extensively studied the use of firing squads.

Williams, himself the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest area, testified that a firing squad involving shots from at least four high-powered rifles to the “cardiac bundle” of the heart would be so quick that an inmate wouldn’t feel pain. He also said that unlike lethal injection, there is an extremely low likelihood that the execution would be botched.

The gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., on Oct . 9, 2014.Sue Ogrocki / AP file

Oklahoma has never used firing squad as a method of executing prisoners since statehood, but current state law does allow for its use if other methods, like lethal injection, were determined to be unconstitutional or otherwise unavailable. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections does not currently have execution protocols in place for any method other than lethal injection.

Friot also heard testimony from Justin Farris, chief of operations at the Department of Corrections, about the recent lethal injections of death row inmates John Marion Grant and Bigler Stouffer late last year.

Farris, who was inside the death chamber for both executions, described the two lethal injections as being on “opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Grant convulsed and vomited as he was executed Oct. 28. Weeks later, on Dec. 9, Stouffer was executed seemingly without incident.