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Oklahoma parole board rejects clemency for death row inmate as execution date looms

Richard Glossip, 60, has steadfastly professed his innocence after being convicted of ordering the murder of his boss at an Oklahoma City motel.

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board rejected clemency Wednesday for high-profile death row inmate Richard Glossip, ignoring extraordinary pleas by the state attorney general that he did not receive a fair trial due to evidence suppression.

The five-member board deadlocked 2-2 after the nearly four-hour hearing. Former prosecutor Richard Smothermon recused himself due to a relative being previously involved in Glossip’s case, making the three-vote majority needed for clemency more difficult.

Glossip, 60, is convicted of masterminding the 1997 murder of his boss, Barry Van Treese, 54, at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. He is scheduled to die on May 18. It is the ninth execution date set for Glossip, who has come within hours of execution three previous times.

His conviction largely rests on the confession of Justin Sneed, a co-worker who beat Van Treese to death with a bat. Sneed received a life sentence after testifying he was hired by Glossip for the killing.

Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond told the board the Glossip should not face execution due to the hiding of a box of evidence by either the prosecution or police during his trial. He said it did not matter which entity kept the evidence from Glossip’s defense, but that it was done by the state either way.

“I believe it would be a grave injustice to execute an individual whose trial conviction was beset by a litany of errors,” Drummond said. “My heart truly hurts for the Van Treese family and what they have experienced over the past 26 years.”

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals originally threw out Glossip’s 1998 conviction based on ineffective counsel, resulting in a retrial in 2004 and death sentence.

Drummond told the board that he spoke to Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna the night before and said she concluded Glossip would no longer qualify as a death penalty case under her office’s current guidelines. Behenna was elected in 2022 and is a Democrat.

Widow Donna Van Treese urged the board to deny clemency. She said the family remains “shattered” by the death of the father of five.

“Now we have 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren that have missed his love and devotion and the silly songs he sang to all of us,” she said. “Family was greatly important to Barry, and we have missed his presence in all of our lives.”

The board’s rejection comes one week after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Glossip’s conviction, concluding his case “has been thoroughly investigated and reviewed” and that he has been granted “unprecedented access” to prosecutors’ files.

Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, alleges the evidence shows Sneed lied on the stand and wants to recant his testimony.

“The public support for Mr. Glossip is diverse, widespread, and growing, including at least 45 death penalty supporting Republicans in the [Oklahoma] Legislature who also reached the conclusion that there is too much doubt to execute Mr. Glossip,” Knight said in a statement after the hearing. “It would be a travesty for Oklahoma to move forward with the execution of an innocent man.”

One of Glossip’s earlier executions was halted in September 2015 when it was discovered prison officials received an incorrect drug in the state’s three-drug execution protocol. Potassium acetate was provided instead of the usual potassium chloride. All executions in the state were soon after halted for several years in the fallout of the gruesome, bloody execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014.

Glossip’s supporters are now expected to ask Republican Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to unilaterally grant a reprieve in the case.

Follow @davejourno
Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, Regional

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