Richard Glossip has consistently maintained his innocence while on death row for the last 25 years.
On May 1, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant Mr. Glossip’s request to stay his May 18 execution, saying it would be “unthinkable” to allow the execution to move forward where the State has acknowledged that Mr. Glossip did not receive a fair trial.
The State’s filing came days after the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to deny clemency to Mr. Glossip despite the Attorney General’s unprecedented argument in support of clemency.
“I want to acknowledge how unusual it is for the state to support a clemency application of a death row inmate,” Mr. Drummond told the board on April 26. “I’m not aware of anytime in our history that an attorney general has appeared before this board and argued for clemency. I’m also not aware of any time in the history of Oklahoma when justice would require it.”
What Justice Requires
On April 6, citing evidence of serious prosecutorial misconduct revealed by an independent review of Mr. Glossip’s case, Mr. Drummond asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to call off Mr. Glossip’s execution, vacate his conviction, and grant him a new trial.
Mr. Glossip was convicted in 2004 for his alleged role in the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of a motel where Mr. Glossip worked. No physical evidence linked Mr. Glossip to the crime and he has maintained his innocence.
The independent review found that the State repeatedly failed to provide—and even destroyed—substantial evidence in the case.
The State’s case against Mr. Glossip centered around the testimony of then 19-year-old Justin Sneed. The independent review revealed that Mr. Sneed had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed lithium while in jail. At trial, he denied ever seeing a psychiatrist and Mr. Glossip’s attorneys were not made aware of his condition.
“The state’s murder case against Glossip was not particularly strong and would have been, in my view, weaker if full discovery had been provided,” wrote Rex Duncan, the former prosecutor appointed to review the case.
Since 2004, Mr. Glossip, who is now 60, has been scheduled for execution nine times and has on more than one occasion come within hours of being put to death only to be granted a temporary stay. He has been served three final meals.
In 2015, the Supreme Court in Glossip v. Gross rejected Mr. Glossip’s challenge to the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, permitting the State to execute him.
“It is critical that Oklahomans have absolute faith that the death penalty is administered fairly and with certainty,” Mr. Drummond wrote in his motion. “Considering everything I know about this case, I do not believe that justice is served by executing a man based on the testimony of a compromised witness.”
The Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the State’s request just two weeks later, concluding the Attorney General’s “‘concession’ does not directly provide statutory or legal grounds for relief in this case.”
“While I respect the Court of Criminal Appeals’ opinion, I am not willing to allow an execution to proceed despite so many doubts,” Mr. Drummond said in a statement. “Ensuring the integrity of the death penalty demands complete certainty. I will thoroughly review the ruling and consider what steps should be taken to ensure justice.”