Oklahoma Execution Stalled at 11th Hour

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Just hours before his execution, convicted murderer Richard Glossip won a two-week reprieve by an Oklahoma appellate court as it examines new evidence in his case.
     Glossip was scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday afternoon for hiring a man to murder his employer, Bary Allan Van Treese, in 1997. Glossip has always maintained his innocence.
     Anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean and Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon have publicly called on Gov. Mary Fallin to halt the execution over questions over Glossip’s guilt.
     The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an emergency stay of execution on Wednesday that will expire on Sept. 30. The court said it needed the time to give “fair consideration” to a last-ditch request for stay by Glossip’s attorneys late Tuesday.
     In the filing, Glossip cites new evidence that purported 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 says. “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 says. “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 contend their client “would be acquitted at trial today” in light of the new evidence.
     Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt expressed his disappointment in the stay of execution. Van Treese’s family “has waited 18 agonizing years for justice,” he said.
     “The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals indicated it needs more time to review the filings,” Pruitt said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
     Fallin has steadfastly refused calls to grant Glossip clemency. She responded to Sarandon and several media inquiries in August by saying she was only authorized under the law to grant a 60-day stay.
     “The governor can only grant clemency to inmates who have been recommended clemency by the pardon and parole board,” spokesman Alex Weintz said at the time. “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.
     “Glossip’s execution is going forward because he is (a) guilty and (b) has exhausted his legal options,” he said. “Final thought: there are multiple victims here, none of them Glossip. A man beaten to death, wife without a husband, five kids with no dad.”
     Fallin again refused to stay Glossip’s execution on Tuesday, citing “no credible evidence” of the man’s innocence.
     Immediately after the emergency stay of execution was granted, Fallin said “court is the proper place” for Glossip to argue the merits of his case.
     “My office will respect whatever decision the court makes, as we have throughout this process” she said in a statement Wednesday. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Van Treese family who have suffered greatly during this long ordeal.”
     Glossip has also expressed his fear of a painful execution through Oklahoma’s use of a controversial three-drug replacement execution cocktail. He 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 convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, 38, in April 2014. Lockett 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. The high court said the inmates failed “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain.”
     Oklahoma wasted no time after the high court ruling, and scheduled four executions – including Glossip’s.

%d bloggers like this: