Donald Anthony Grant , popularly known as Donald Grant, was an American (Black) man who was convicted of two murders in the year, 2001. He was put to death by lethal injection (despite a lawsuit against the method in America) on 27 January 2022 by the state of Oklahoma. Grant became the first person in America to be executed in 2022 and the third person in Oklahoma to be executed by lethal injection since the method resumed in the state in October 2021 after nearly seven years.
Donald Grant was born in 1976 (age 46 years; at the time of death) in New York City. He grew up at a housing project in New York City during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. Growing up he was frequently beaten, as the members of his family came to know about his heavy alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness.
While talking to a news reporter, one of his relatives revealed that Donald had led a very tragic life. He said,
The refrigerator was locked when he was 8 years old and the grandmother would only feed the girls and the boys had to go on the streets to steal food basically.”
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Bald
Eye Colour: Black
Not much is known about his family. His father was an alcoholic.
Reportedly, Grant was dating a girl in 2001 who was imprisoned in America. He conducted a robbery at a hotel in America in 2001 to collect the bail money for her girlfriend.
Convicted of Murdering Two Hotel Employees
In July 2001, Donald Grant robbed La Quinta Inn in Del City to steal money for his girlfriend’s bail. He was 25 years old at that time. During the robbery, he opened fire on two hotel employees, so that there would be no witnesses to his robbery. Apparently, one of them died instantly, while, Grant used a knife to kill the other one. The two women who were killed by Grant include 29-year-old Brenda McElyea and 43-year-old Felicia Suzette Smith.
Later, he wrote a confession letter for his crime. His letter read,
So I’m sitting in the house cleaning my gun with a kill on my mind for whoever’s is there.”
He was sentenced to death in 2005.
Grant’s Appeal for Clemency
Since Grant was held guilty in the murder case of Brenda McElyea and Felicia Suzette Smith, he has filed various appeals in the Supreme Court of America to have his sentence overturned. Two of his attorneys Susan Otto and Emma Rolls claimed that he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and brain trauma (caused by his alcoholic father’s violent abuse in childhood) which made him a suitable candidate for mercy. Donald appealed for clemency and sought to delay his execution citing the issues with John Grant’s execution in October 2021. Reportedly, John Grant made various movements after he was injected with the first drug, the sedative midazolam. His movements were described as violent. He suffered from convulsions and vomited several times. However, the members of his victim’s families tearfully urged the board to reject clemency for him. One of McElyea’s sisters while recalling the pain she experienced when she had to inform her father of McElyea’s murder, said,
I had to call my dad and tell him his daughter, his baby girl, was dead. I had never seen him cry, but that night I heard him weep and it broke my heart.”
November 2021 Hearing
During a clemency hearing in November, 2021, Donald Grant admitted to killing Felicia Suzette Smith and Brenda McElyea. He said that he killed them as he wanted to leave no witnesses to his robbery in the Del City. He expressed deep sincere remorse and said that he was sorry for his actions in front of The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. He blamed the devil for the killings in 2001. He said,
First and foremost … I’d like to express my … sincere deep regrets and remorse for my actions. I know words can’t bring them back. I understand. … I can’t change that. You know, I wish I could and everything.”
Later, the victim’s lawyers told the board that Donald Grant had fatally shot the INN manager Brenda McElyea as she begged for her life. They further disclosed that he had shot the front desk clerk, Suzette Smith, in the face three times. Grant then slit Smith’s throat and beat her over the head with a computer monitor, a VCR, and his gun. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied Grant’s appeal for clemency (vote to reject his clemency request was 4-1) putting aside the concerns about the last execution, scheduling his execution on January 27, 2022, through the lethal injections method.
Request for an Emergency Stay
Donald Grant had earlier asked the federal judge to grant him a temporary injunction that would delay his execution until a trial can be held over whether Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection method is constitutional. He had pleaded with the Supreme Court of the U.S. to use the killing by firing squad method for his execution, arguing that it would be quicker and less painful.
Grant, along with other death row inmates in Oklahoma, had challenged the use of sedative midazolam for their executions. They claimed that the drug was inappropriate for lethal injections citing examples of its use in several problematic executions.
Grant’s last appeal for an emergency stay was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court on 26 January 2022. Donald was concerned about the method of execution used by the southern US state of Oklahoma and was afraid of the risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.
Protesting Grant’s Execution
According to a leading news daily in the U.S., The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK CADP) protested outside the governor’s mansion a few hours before his execution on 27 January 2022.
Execution by Lethal Injection
According to a state corrections spokesman, Donald Grant was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was executed by lethal injection at around 10 a.m. He fell unconscious at around 10:08 a.m. and subsequently, died at 10:16 a.m. At the time of the execution, 18 witnesses were present there including a few news reporters, prosecutors, a police chief, his victims family members, and his loved ones. A few minutes before his execution, Grant was given two minutes to deliver his final words. He started by saying,
Yo, God, I got this. I’m solid, son. No meds, no nothing. I’m solid.”
He further said,
I’m going to go to the universe, and then I’ll be back. God is here. The true god.”
He at one point began chanting unintelligible. He continued to speak about the seven witnesses who attended the execution on his behalf even after he was told that his two minutes to speak had ended. Soon, a prison staff member in the execution chamber stopped him and cut off the microphone. He kept speaking even after the microphones were turned off. He constantly looked towards his family members present in the witness room and tears started rolling down his face.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Donald’s death marks the 1541st execution in the U.S. since capital punishment was resumed in the U.S. in 1976.
After Grant’s execution, Shirl Pilcher, a sister of McElyea, while talking to the reporters said that she and her family were happy that justice have been served. She said,
Although Donald Grant’s execution does not bring Brenda back, it allows us all to finally move forward knowing that justice was served. Our memories can hopefully be less jaded and clouded by the past. For me, whenever I have a thought of her I always have to go back to, ‘Is he going to get out? Is something going to change? And now today I know that that’s finally over and that’s done.”
I hope that now when … when I think of her, I can go straight to that memory, whether it was when I first brought my daughter home from the hospital (Brenda) was there. Hopefully, those types of memories can come to the foreground and I don’t have to go through the past to be able to remember the memory of her instead of the memory of her death.”
Grant’s Last Meal
On the night of 26 January 2022, Donald Grant requested a very large meal (his last meal). The menu included sesame chicken, six egg rolls, shrimp fried rice, and a large apple fritter. He said if the dessert wasn’t available, he would like to have three pints of strawberry ice cream.