Inmate’s Execution Again Stalled at 11th Hour

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Bowing to intense pressure from anti-death penalty activists and Pope Francis, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin halted the execution of convicted murdered Richard Glossip at the last minute over concerns about the execution drug.
     Glossip was scheduled to die at 3 p.m. Wednesday for hiring a man to murder his employer, Barry Allan Van Treese, in 1997. Glossip has always insisted he is innocent.
     Fallin halted the execution after prison officials received potassium acetate as the third drug in the state’s three-drug execution protocol – potassium chloride is usually used.
     “This stay will give the Department of Corrections and its attorneys the opportunity to determine whether potassium acetate is compliant with the execution protocol and/or to obtain potassium chloride,” the one-page order states. “The execution of Richard Eugene Glossip is therefore scheduled for Friday, November 6, 2015.”
     Fallin has faced harsh criticism for several months for refusing to stop Glossip’s execution. Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon called the governor a “horrible person” in August for refusing to intervene.
     Fallin’s spokesman Alex Weintz fired back , saying at the time the governor does not have the ability to grant Glossip clemency.
     “The limit of her legal ability to intervene is to grant a 60 day stay,” Weintz tweeted. “The gov[ernor] can only grant clemency [to] inmates who have been recommended clemency by the Pardon and Parole Board. Glossip’s request was unanimously denied … To say Glossip has had his day in court is an understatement. He has been pursuing the same arguments publicly and in court for 20 years. He was convicted of murder in court twice and sentenced to death twice by two juries (24 total jurors unanimous in their verdict).”
     Even if Fallin could grant clemency, doing so would “unilaterally overturn” the judgments of jurors and several courts, including the 10th Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court, Weintz said.
     Fallin’s change of mind came after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals declined Monday to halt the execution for a second time. It stopped the execution scheduled for Sept. 16 to consider new, last-ditch evidence of guilt filed by Glossip’s attorneys.
     Glossip claimed hit man and star prosecution witness Justin Sneed allegedly bragged to other inmates that he set Glossip up.
     “Sneed has bragged that, in order to escape the death penalty, he lied about Mr. Glossip’s involvement in the case and that Mr. Glossip was not involved,” the filing stated. “He also stated he wishes to recant but fears getting the death penalty himself.”
     Glossip’s attorneys said Sneed killed Van Treese by himself, that he was “desperate” for drugs.
     “Justin Sneed, contrary to the meek youngster he was portrayed to be at trial, was a severe, thieving methamphetamine addict,” the filing stated. “He stole guns and other personal belongings out of cars in the parking lot of the motel where the crime occurred – and out of occupied motel rooms – and traded what he stole for methamphetamine.”
     Glossip’s attorneys argued their client “would be acquitted at trial today” in light of the new evidence.
     Minutes before Fallin’s order stopped the execution, the U.S. Supreme Court declined Glossip’s application for stay. Seemingly resigned to his fate, Glossip said he was “happy to be alive” but prepared for death.
     “I don’t want to be a martyr and I don’t want to die,” Glossip said in a statement. “Believe me, I want to live, but if my death would stop anyone else from having to go through what I went through for 18 years, I’d be more than happy to die for them.”
     Glossip and three other death row inmates sued Oklahoma last year, claiming its use of midazolam – the first drug in a new three-drug replacement protocol – fails to render a person insensate to pain, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
     States have been forced to seek replacement execution drugs from compounding pharmacies after anti-death penalty opponents persuaded large drug manufacturers to stop making lethal injection drugs. Oklahoma’s previous protocol required pentobarbital to knock the inmate unconscious, vecuronium to stop breathing and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
     Glossip’s lawsuit was filed after the botched execution of murderer Clayton Lockett, 38, in April 2014. He was declared unconscious after being injected with midazolam, but breathed heavily, writhed, clenched his teeth and strained to lift his head off a pillow three minutes later. Blinds separating a viewing gallery and the death chamber were lowered and Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton ordered the execution stopped.
     It took Lockett 43 minutes to die of a heart attack.
     In a 5-4 ruling on June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new execution protocol and Oklahoma quickly rescheduled four executions, including Glossip’s. The high court said the inmates failed “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain.”

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