**** UPDATE: An Oklahoma appellate court granted a two-week stay of execution for Richard Glossip. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued the order about three hours before Glossip’s scheduled execution. The appellate court said it needed time to consider several motions that Glossip’s attorneys made less than 24 hours before the scheduled execution, including one asking for an evidentiary hearing. The order resets the execution date to September 30. ****
The only witness against a man on death row has bragged about setting him up. That man, Richard Glossip, will be executed today.
Justin Sneed has frequently bragged about setting his manager up to save his own skin. Another man, who said he is Sneed’s drug dealer, testified under oath that Sneed was addicted to meth and frequently used his job at a motel to steal from customers to support his habit. He murdered his boss to keep his job (something prosecutors said Glossip did).
“I saw nothing to make me think that Justin Sneed was controlled by Richard Glossip,” the dealer wrote.
Experts on false confessions don’t necessarily believe that Sneed maliciously set up Glossip, but that police might have manipulated him. Investigators suggested to Sneed that Glossip was the mastermind, giving Sneed an out. This is just the tip of the iceberg in the case of Richard Glossip, who will soon be executed and swept under the rug. Former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer, John W. Raley Jr., the former Chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, Barry Scheck, Co-Diretor of the Innocence Project, and Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, have come together to urge Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to stay the execution of Richard Glossip.
Glossip is scheduled to be executed today and is seeking a stay to allow consideration of his innocence claims. The letter points to 29 other people who were sent to death row on the basis of testimony “another person who was himself a suspect in the murder gave a confession that also implicated the innocent defendant.” Richard Glossip is a “classic example” of this phenomenon.
The writers state they “don’t know for sure whether Richard Glossip is innocent or guilty. That is precisely the problem. If we keep executing defendants in cases like this, where the evidence of guilt is tenuous and untrustworthy, we will keep killing innocent people.”
Susan Sarandon and Sister Helen Prejean have also come forward to champion Glossip’s cause. Sarandon played Prejena in the 1995 Oscar-winning film Dead Man Walking. Sarandon is a passionate critic of the death penalty and narrates CNN’s Death Row Stories series. Sister Helen Prejean is best known as the “Dead Man Walking” nun for her work with death row inmates and her accompaniment of 6 prisoners to their executions. She plans to do the same with Glossip.
Prejean runs the Ministry Against the Death Penalty out of Louisiana. She traveled to Oklahoma to prepare. She won’t be allowed to visit Glossip on the day of his execution; Oklahoma law bars anyone, including family or clergy from visiting the inmate the day of the execution. She said that while Glossip still had hope he might be spared, “he feels that even if he is killed, he has shown how broken this whole system of death is.” Richard Glossip was convicted solely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who was the only suspect in the murder. He confessed to the crime and said Glossip, his manager, hired him. There was no physical evidence against Glossip and Sneed gave several contradictory statements about Glossip and his alleged involvement. Sneed claimed he was pressured by Glossip.
Prosecutors have portrayed Glossip as a calculating killer who tried to cover up his embezzlement of $6,000 from his boss. They said he convinced Justin Sneed, a maintenance man coworker, to kill hotel owner Barry Van Treese. Sneed who is the admitted killer received a deal for his claims that Glossip came up with the idea and then hired him. Glossip’s original conviction was overturned because of inadequate defense attorneys. He was found guilty at his 2004 retrial and re-sentenced to death. Sneed beat Van Treese to death with a bat. While Glossip, the alleged mastermind, received death, Sneed, the man who carried out the murder, got life without parole. He is currently being housed at a medium security prison.
An online petition for a stay of execution has reached 250,000 signatures. In a Sky News interview and on the Dr. Phil Show, Susan Sarandon made impassioned pleas for a stay for Glossip. British business tycoon Richard Branson wrote of the case, “There are plenty of reasons to believe Glossip did not commit the crimes he was accused of…Giving him another opportunity to prove his innocence is not being weak on crime, it’s being strong on justice.“
Sky News reporter Ian Woods reported, “There is no incontrovertible proof that Richard Glossip is guilty of murder. No forensic evidence, no eyewitness account, other than that of the killer, who saved his own skin by blaming Richard. The state of Oklahoma is going to kill him on Wednesday, so I’m not going to sit on the fence any longer. I’m telling you: I think that’s wrong.”
Glossip was most recently at the center of the execution drug controversy. His case Glossip v. Gross made it to the Supreme Court. By a 5-4 split decision, the court found that death row inmates, including Glossip, failed to establish that they would likely succeed in proving that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol violates the Eighth Amendment. The basic facts of the case are undisputed. Several death row prisoners filed a lawsuit seeking to stay their executions indefinitely. They argued that the execution drugs used by the state of Oklahoma would cause pain and therefore violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. Since most manufacturers of the usual well-established lethal injection protocol stopped selling to death penalty states because it goes against the Hippocratic Oath, states have become increasingly desperate and are using unproven combinations.
There have been a series of botched executions using these new methods, including last spring in Oklahoma. The majority of the court found that it isn’t enough to establish a risk of violating the 8th Amendment, the inmates must show (1) that the protocol has a demonstrated risk of severe pain and (2) that risk is substantial when compared to available alternatives. It is important to note that while Justice Samuel Alito continually votes to uphold the death penalty, he has frequently noted that capital punishment isn’t “per se” constitutional. Interestingly, this opinion is shared with one of the dissenting Justices in the case, Stephen Breyer. A case arguing the constitutionality of capital punishment has not gone before the court since 1976, when it was struck down before later being reinstated.
All of Glossip’s appeals are exhausted and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has refused to give Glossip clemency, which would have re-sentenced him to life without parole.
Gov. Fallin has so far refused to step in and delay the execution. **** UPDATE: After the stay was issued, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement saying the “court is the proper place for Richard Glossip and his legal team to argue the merits of his case.” ****
Sources: CNN | SCOTUSBlog Glossip v. Gross | Justice Stephen Breyer’s Dissenting Opinion | Justices Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Kagan’s Dissenting Opinion | Oklahoma to Execute Richard Glossip Despite Concerns over Evidence, Drugs (CNN) | Holding the Line on Lethal Injection (National Review) | The Death Penalty May be Unconstitutional (Politico) | Oklahoma’s Richard Glossip is Nun’s 7th Dead Man Walking (NBC) | Oklahoma Should Delay Richard Glossip Execution (LATimes) | Sister Helen Prejean’s Points in the Case Against Richard | The Only Witness Against Him Bragged About Setting Him Up. Now He is About to Be Executed (ThinkProgress) | Richard Glossip’s Innocence Claims Draws Growing Attention (DPIC) | Updated DPIC | Killing Despite Reasonable Doubt (Virgin) | Is Oklahoma About to Execute an Innocent Man? (HuffPost)