by Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – In a statement issued Monday (August 10), Governor Mary Fallin said, concerning the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip, “The state of Oklahoma is prepared to hold him accountable for his crimes and move forward with his scheduled execution.”
Opponents of capital punishment restated their belief in Glossip’s innocence, asking for a delay in his execution to allow further examination of the case.
Fallin’s prepared comments came after a back-and-forth of comments posted on twitter accounts, including exchanges between her press spokesman, Alex Weintz, and actress Susan Sarandon. While making it clear they oppose capital punishment in all cases, Sarandon and other opponents of the ultimate sanction assert Glossip, a death row inmate, is innocent.
Sister Helen Prejean responded to Weintz on Twitter by saying, “The jury system doesn’t guarantee a correct verdict — especially with ineffective lawyers involved. Errors are made.”
On twitter Monday, Sarandon said, “The Gov. should grant a reprieve so Glossip can present evidence of innocence. Executing an innocent man can never be reversed.”
Fallin says Glossip is guilty and his appeals have run their course over the past 17 years.
“Richard Glossip has been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by two juries. His conviction and death sentence have been reviewed and upheld by four courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States.
“His actions directly led to the brutal murder of a husband and a father of seven children. The state of Oklahoma is prepared to hold him accountable for his crimes and move forward with his scheduled execution,” Fallin said.
Rev. Adam Leathers, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) said in a statement Monday evening, “Even for those who affirm the death penalty, Mr. Glossip’s case should cause great concern to the citizens of Oklahoma. We hope and pray that the Spirit will move within her heart and she will reconsider.”
Prejean, who is Glossip’s spiritual advisor, addressed a crowded state Capitol press conference last month, saying there are many reasons to doubt Glossip’s guilty in the 1997 murder of motel owner Barry Van Treese.
Don Knight, a Colorado attorney with vast experience in death penalty litigation, joined that press briefing. He has called for time and resources to examine the case against Glossip, saying he shares Sister Prejean’s beliefs in his innocence.
Knight and others have emphasized that even proponents of the death penalty should hope to avoid execution of an innocent man. Knight said, “No one wants to see an innocent man die.”
Fallin’s staff issued this chronology as part of today’s statement on the matter:
“Glossip was first convicted of Van Treese’s murder and sentenced to death in 1998.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals then overturned his conviction, citing ineffective legal counsel. In a 2004 retrial, in which Glossip was represented by a legal team with decades of experience in capital punishment cases, he was again convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.
“He appealed that conviction, and his appeal was denied by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit Court, and then the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Fallin noted that Glossip asked for a clemency recommendation from the state Pardon and Parole, a request which was denied. Fallin’s staff says she does not have authority to grant clemency, and can only “grant a stay to delay execution for a total of up to 60 days.” Further delay, her release said, “would simply postpone the administration of justice.”
Rev. Leathers, on behalf of OK-CADP, concluded, “We ask the people of Oklahoma this: If one person, who had his life to gain from it, claimed you committed a crime and because of that claim, you were facing your own death in a little over a month from now…what would you expect from your government? Sixty days is a small price to pay to avoid killing an innocent man.”
Knight stated, “It is indisputable, even by the governor’s office, that the only evidence against Mr. Glossip was the testimony of Justin Sneed, who admitted to killing Mr. Van Treese, lied about it to police when he was questioned, and gave his testimony only to save himself from the death penalty.”
In one of her twitter posts, Sister Helen said, ” Over 150 people have been exonerated from death row. All were convicted by juries. Yet all were completely innocent.”