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Calling for ‘a state of justice,’ Prejean ecstatic after execution stays

Death row inmate Richard Glossip's supporters celebrate outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, after receiving word of the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay of execution. (L-R) Joe Cardona, Mary Rzepski, Kim Van Atta, Sister Helen Prejean, Crystal Martinez and Jim Liberto. Photo by Kim Bellware.
Death row inmate Richard Glossip’s supporters celebrate outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, after receiving word of the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay of execution. (L-R) Joe Cardona, Mary Rzepski, Kim Van Atta, Sister Helen Prejean, Crystal Martinez and Jim Liberto. Photo by Kim Bellware.


By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

Just one day before Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip was to be executed, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay for his execution along with the executions of two other inmates, John Grant and Benjamin Cole.

The Supreme Court has agreed to review whether the use of midazolam as part of the three-drug cocktail would violate the inmates’ constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Glossip’s execution had been scheduled for Jan 29. John Marion Grant’s execution was set for Feb. 19 and Benjamin Robert Cole’s for March 5.

The court’s one-sentence unsigned order stated, “It is hereby ordered that petitioners’ executions using midazolam are stayed pending final disposition of this case.”

One day earlier Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the court for the stays, pending the Supreme Court’s decision in the case, or until the state is able to obtain one of two other drugs previously used for lethal injections.

Arguments are scheduled for April 29, one year to the day after Clayton Lockett’s execution, when the state’s new protocol called for use of midazolam. Lockett clearly suffered in the process, and the term “botched execution” was widely used to describe the process.

A decision is expected in the “final disposition” before July.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking” and Glossip’s spiritual advisor, held a press conference at the state Capitol hosted by the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. That came two days before Glossip’s date with death. The group was asking that the Supreme Court grant the stays of execution for Glossip, Grant and Cole.

Glossip was convicted in a 1997 murder-for-hire case.

During the press conference, Mark Henricksen, one of Glossip’s attorneys said, “It’s a peculiar distortion of justice that the actual killer will likely die of natural causes in a minimum-security prison, while Richard faces death.”

Others speaking out against the death penalty were State Rep. George Young (D-99); Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director Oklahoma Conference of Churches; Bud Welch, President of Murder Victim Families for Human Rights and OK-CADP board member; Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director; and Rev. Adam Leathers, OK-CADP board member.

Leathers, who opened the event said, “Oklahoma is considered by other states and its citizens to be a fairly conservative place. No earnest conservative should ever be content with acquiescently granting our government the God like power of terminating a citizen’s life, because we’re mad at them.

“Oklahoma, by permitting the evil institution of the death penalty to exist, not only are we not being true to God, we’re not even being true to ourselves,” Leathers added.

Henderson said, “The death penalty is the gravest exercise of government power over its own citizens. Both the US Supreme Court’s decision to review Oklahoma’s protocols and Attorney General Pruitt’s request for stays acknowledge that it must be carefully scrutinized and should never be done in a slipshod fashion.”

Welch who lost his only daughter in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing committed by Timothy McVeigh, said “McVeigh’s execution was nothing but revenge. Victims’ families cannot go through the healing process if you think killing someone out of revenge will bring you peace.”

Sister Prejean said, “The eyes of the world are on Oklahoma. There is no humane way to kill a conscious, imaginative human being. People around the world just don’t understand how the people of Oklahoma can allow this to be done in their name.”

The day following the press conference Prejean was in McAlester visiting Richard in prison with members of his family and friends, when the stay of execution was announced.

“Everybody started laughing, we were all so relieved and happy,” she said. “Happy too for John Grant and Benjamin Cole, but thinking also of Charles Warner’s execution before this decision.

“I hope that Richard’s case will now help bring a spotlight to the frailty of the capitol punishment system – that it could come so close to executing an innocent man,” said Prejean. “Not the first time it has done so.”

Prejean and the coalition are continuing to urge supporters to sign the petition, at, to ask Governor Fallin to spare Glossip’s life.

“We the citizens have our name on the gurney,” Prejean added. “What it takes is for us, the people, to say no, enough of the killing, and imitating the killing to show that killing is wrong — we need to be a society for life and a state of justice.”

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