Appeals Court Grants Last-Minute Stay To Oklahoma Death Row Inmate Richard Glossip

Sep 16, 2015

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted a last-minute stay of execution Wednesday to Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, a little over three hours before he was set to die by lethal injection.

Updated 3:03 p.m.

Standing outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean said the two extra weeks will give Richard Glossip’s lawyers time to present what they say is new evidence that will clear his name.

"I do not believe he will ever be executed and I believe he will walk out this gate one day," Prejean told assembled reporters, according to KGOU's Jacob McCleland.

In a statement posted on Twitter as she was on her way to the death chamber, Prejean said Glossip had hoped his death would shine a spotlight on a flawed criminal justice system.

Prejean, who has been advocating on Glossip’s behalf and serves as his spiritual advisor, believes his defense team will have enough time to file more evidence in Glossip’s favor. “Look what they’ve already done under pressure of two week," Prejean said. "And so two weeks is just the beginning of the next part of the road. They’re going to add in more evidence that’s going to support the case even more.”  

Updated 2:01 p.m.

Members of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty say they're ecstatic the court decided to spend the next two weeks reviewing the case to decide whether or not to hear new evidence. Coalition chair and former Democratic state Sen. Connie Johnson said in a statement there's nothing stopping Gov. Mary Fallin from issuing a 60-day stay of execution.

"We remain hopeful about the courts and the governor. that she too will find a reason to support the court in this temporary reprieve, in which to be evaluate Richard's case beyond any shadow of doubt," Johnson said. "Accordingly, we will continue our advocacy with her and the public in order to educate."

Updated 1:08 p.m.

Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt says he doesn't expect any new information to surface that proves death row inmate's Richard Glossip's innocence.

"The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals indicated it needs more time to review the filings," Pruitt said in a statement. "I’m confident that the Court of Criminal Appeals, after reviewing the filings, will conclude there is nothing worthy which would lead the court to overturn a verdict reached by two juries who both found Glossip guilty and sentenced him to death for Barry Van Treese’s murder.”

Glossip’s attorney Kathleen Lorde says new witness statements and a missing box of documents shed new light on Glossip’s conviction.

“There’s a lot of stuff there. And the courts have never really looked at it," Glossip's attorney Kathleen Lorde told McCleland. "They’ve never really looked at the evidence that we’ve presented and that’s why I think we got the stay.” 

Glossip's relatives were reportedly elated by the news of Glossip's stay. His daughter Ericka Glossip-Hodge and several family members were on their way to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary when they learned of the court's decision. They had to pull over due to excitement.

Updated 12:25 p.m.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted a request Glossip's attorneys filed Tuesday, where they argued they need more time to explore new evidence and testimony that casts doubts on Glossip's guilt and role in the 1997 murder of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese.

"As I have repeatedly said, court is the proper place for Richard Glossip and his legal team to argue the merits of his case," Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. "My office will respect whatever decision the court makes, as we have throughout this process."

The court reset Glossip's execution to Sept. 30 in order to "give fair consideration to the materials included with his subsequent application for post-conviction relief."

"The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals did today what elected officials have refused to do," Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said in a statement. "For today, at least, the state of Oklahoma has avoided the execution of a man not guilty of any capital offense."

Mark Crain with praised the court's decision. A petition on the activist group's website started by death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean gathered 270,000 signatures. Crain says members made more than 7,000 phone calls to Fallin's office this week, and an ad campaign bombarded the homepage of The Oklahoman newspaper early Wednesday.

Updated 11:19 a.m.

Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip is counting down the final hours of his life in the maximum security H-Unit at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where he'll be put to death by lethal injection at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has yet to rule on an emergency request for a stay of execution filed by Glossip's attorneys Tuesday.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections implemented a new execution protocol after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett last year. Glossip is currently in a special cell, where he's allowed to have toiletries, a pen and paper, religious items, and a book or magazine.

At the appointed hour, Glossip will be administered a three-drug cocktail consisting of midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The first drug, a sedative, was at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case examining whether or not Oklahoma's procedures violate the Constiution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Glossip was the lead plaintiff in the case.

Glossip will be the 113th inmate to die by lethal injection since Oklahoma resumed executions in 1990 following a 1976 Supreme Court decision that ended a de facto nationwide moratorium on the death penalty. That number is second only to the state of Texas. Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to use lethal injection as its primary method of capital punishment.

Oklahoma currently has 49 inmates on death row. All but three are housed at the OSP in McAlester.

Wednesday morning members of the activist group launched a campaign urging Gov. Mary Fallin to issue a 60-stay of execution. The group purchased banner ads on NewsOK's website.

Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Original Post

Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip requested an emergency stay of execution from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Tuesday afternoon, 24 hours before their client is set to die by lethal injection.

Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Eugene Glossip.
Credit Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The document says Glossip’s conviction in the 1997 murder-for-hire plot was based on unreliable testimony from Justin Sneed, the maintenance worker who confessed to beating Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese to death. They also cited ineffective counsel during Glossip’s initial trial, and new evidence that came to light.

“We feel we can get more evidence. There’s more to do,” Glossip’s defense attorney Don Knight said during a state Capitol press conference Monday shortly before taking a binder of affidavits and testimony up to Gov. Mary Fallin’s office. “And when we have everything we can possibly get, our case in court will be that much stronger. You have to understand, it’s an extremely high bar for us to meet in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.”

The new evidence includes a sworn affidavit from Richard Barrett, Sneed’s drug dealer who claimed Sneed’s addiction was much worse than the prosecution indicated during Glossip’s trial. He said Sneed would break into cars and rooms at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City in order to support his methamphetamine habit. But Barrett wasn’t at the motel when the murder took place in January 1997.

Richard Leo, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, said police coerced Sneed into implicating Glossip – an interrogation technique that’s been proven to lead to false confessions from suspects.

Sneed’s fellow inmate Michael Scott testified in an affidavit he overheard Sneed bragging about setting up an innocent man, and that Glossip didn’t do anything.

The court took no action Tuesday.

Gov. Mary Fallin denied a request to issue a temporary 60-day stay of execution, saying the new evidence doesn't cast doubt on the guilty verdict. She said unless a court issues a stay, Glossip will be executed at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

“Courts, unlike my office, have the legal authority to grant an indefinite stay of execution or a retrial,” Fallin said in a statement. “In the event that a court refuses to issue a stay, Richard Glossip will be executed. “I hope the execution brings a sense of closure and peace to the Van Treese family, who has suffered greatly because of Glossip’s crimes.”

During a brief telephone interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Glossip says he hasn't given up hope his lethal injection will be halted.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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