By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty joined with members of Richard Glossip’s family to hold a rally and sit in at the state Capitol just one day before the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip. Participants were calling once again for a stay of execution for Glossip, who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Sept 16 at 3p.m.
The event was held at the location of the controversial Ten Commandments monument, on the North side of the state Capitol.
“As you know our governor has insisted that this monument remain on the Capitol grounds, in spite of a court order asking for it to be removed,” said former state Senator and OK-CADP chair Connie Johnson. “It’s interesting to us that she insists on this statue standing here, but she has no regard for that commandment on it that says ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill.’
“The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will continue its focus and advocacy to convince Gov. Mary Fallin to grant a stay of execution to Richard Glossip,” said Johnson.
Speakers included Illinois exoneree and Witness to Innocence board member Nathson “Nate” Fields, Nathaniel Batchelder, director the Peace House and event emcee, Rex Friend, OK-CADP board member, Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, Ryan Kiesel, ACLU-Oklahoma executive Director and Nancy Vollertsen, sister of Oklahoma exoneree, the late Greg Wilhoit also a board member of Witness to Innocence.
Fields told the story of how he was acquitted of a double homicide in Illinois after serving 18 years, 12 of which were on death row,
“I think this is very bad precedent to allow this execution to proceed,” Fields said, then calling on Gov. Fallin to “just stop and pause, you may be making a mistake.”
Vollertsen is the sister of Greg Wilhoit, who spent six years on Oklahoma’s death row after being wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife.
“Do I know for 100 percent sure Richard Glossip is innocent? I don’t. But I strongly believe that there is a good possibility he is,” Vollertsen said. “I know if Greg were here- unfortunately he passed away last year- I know that he would tell you that you can always release an innocent man from prison, you can never release him from the grave.”
The Witness to Innocence group sent a letter to Gov. Fallin Tuesday, asking for her to save Glossip’s life.
Glossip family members present included daughters Christina Glossip and Ericka Glossip Hodge, sister Nancy Ogden, niece Billie Jo Boyiddle and her son Kevin.
“On behalf of our family, we just want to ask the governor, please really look at what you were given by the attorneys and please grant him a stay because Richard is innocent and we’ve been saying this for 18 years,” Boyiddle said.
ACLU Oklahoma executive director Ryan Kiesel said, “The real master of capital punishment, the real master of the death penalty, is not justice. Its politics,”
The final speaker, Rex Friend made a plea to Gov. Fallin to show mercy.
Kim Van Atta, a close friend of Glossip’s and author of the website www.richardeglossip.com shared a song composed especially for Richard, to close the rally called “My Eyes are Innocence.”
The rally was followed by a Sit-In in the Governor’s office, which began at 1 p.m. Followed by a large group of media, approximately 15 people sat in the small Governor’s office waiting room hoping to speak to her to ask for a 60 day stay of execution. They were informed that the Governor was not in the office, but they remained there for most of the afternoon.
If the Governor does not issue a stay, on Wednesday, September 16, OK-CADP members will hold the Richard Glossip “Don’t Kill For Me” Execution Protest and Vigil in front of the Governor’s mansion, 820 NE 23rd St., in Oklahoma City, beginning with a gathering from 2:15 – 2:30 p.m., witnessing at 2:30 p.m. and concluding with the silent vigil at the appointed execution hour of 3 p.m., until death is pronounced. Many will gather in McAlester to await word of a stay or that the execution will proceed.
“This will be Oklahoma’s first execution since the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of our lethal injection process, despite its cruel and unusual nature,” said Adam Leathers, OK-CADP spokesperson.
Richard Glossip was arrested in 1997 in connection with the killing of Barry Van Treese. The confessed murderer, Justin Sneed ultimately testified Glossip paid him to commit the murder.
Over the course of two trials and in varied interrogations, Sneed offered several differing accounts of what happened. Sneed struck a plea deal and received a sentence of life without parole, while Glossip was sentenced to death.
“The coalition held both events believing that their efforts can help avoid a horrible miscarriage of justice that is about to occur with the execution of a potentially innocent man,” Johnson added.
Recently a Huffington Post article featured an opeen letter signed by Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, US Senator Tom Coburn and OU Coach Barry Switzer asking for the Gov. to grant the 60 day stay.
“We will be grieved if the state of Oklahoma chooses to end this life and destroy another family as they prepare for the execution of Mr. Glossip,” Leathers continued. “We also send our thoughts and prayers to the family of Barry Van Treese, as well as those who are required to carry out this execution.”
That afternoon shortly after the Sit In, the Glossip legal team filed a petition with the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals. If that is rejected they will file with the U.S. Supreme Court.