Questions Raised Ahead of Oklahoma Execution of Convicted Murderer


Supporters of convicted murderer Richard Glossip asked Oklahoma’s governor on Monday to stay his execution, saying they had evidence that points to his innocence.

Glossip, 52, is set to be put to death by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in McAlester on Wednesday at 3 p.m. local time after unsuccessfully challenging the legality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection mix. He was found guilty of arranging the 1997 murder of the owner of an Oklahoma City motel he was managing.

There was no physical evidence that tied Glossip to the crime. One of his lawyers, Don Knight, said his client was largely convicted on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who confessed and said Glossip hired him to do it. Sneed is serving a life sentence.

A legal team for Glossip said at a rally at the Capitol that Sneed was coerced into giving a false confession. They presented an affidavit from an inmate in a neighboring cell who said Sneed claimed he set up Glossip.

“We are headed to the governor’s office right now to present our new information and to ask her to please grant a 60-day stay on Mr. Glossip’s execution,” Knight said.

The execution comes after Oklahoma conducted a flawed execution last year that added fuel to the simmering national debate about the death penalty. The state was also forced to defend before the U.S. Supreme Court a drug it will use in its lethal injection mix in Glossip’s execution.

A stay for Glossip has won backing from an unusual group including former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican; former National Football League coach Barry Switzer; and the Innocence Project, a national group that seeks criminal exonerations.

“We also don’t know for sure whether Richard Glossip is innocent or guilty,” the Innocence Project said in a letter signed by Coburn and Switzer to Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican. “That is precisely the problem.”

The state said a jury rightfully convicted Glossip.

“His actions directly led to the brutal murder of a husband and a father of seven children,” Fallin said in a recent statement. “The state of Oklahoma is prepared to hold him accountable for his crimes and move forward with his scheduled execution.”

In January 1997, Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn, was bludgeoned to death by Sneed. Glossip was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to death that year, with the decision upheld on appeal.

Lawyers for Glossip and two other death row inmates in Oklahoma had challenged the use of a sedative called midazolam as part of the state’s lethal injection process. They said the drug could not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery, making it unsuitable for executions.

In June, the Supreme Court said midazolam did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, a ruling that provoked a caustic debate among the justices.

SOURCE: Reuters, Heide Brandes

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