By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter –
OKLAHOMA CITY – Don Knight, attorney for Oklahoma death row prisoner Richard Glossip, spoke for more than half an hour Wednesday (June 16) during a press conference at the State Capitol. He asserted that there is evidence that proves his client is innocent. Glossip, 58, has no prior criminal history, and has been on Oklahoma’s death row since 1998.
The event was hosted by State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, who also spoke on behalf of Glossip’s innocence.
McDugle sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Pardon and Parole Board asking for a review of Glossip’s case. The bipartisan letter was signed by 34 Oklahoma legislators, 28 Republicans and 6 Democrats.
“New evidence from 29 witnesses and experts casts serious doubt on the integrity of Glossip’s conviction, the press release states. “The case has taken on a new urgency as executions in Oklahoma could resume within the next few months.”
Knight and McDugle have requested a third-party investigation into the case.
Glossip was convicted of what prosecutors called a “murder for hire” 1997 beating death of motel owner Barry Van Treese in Oklahoma City.
The admitted killer, Justin Sneed, a co-worker of Glossip, avoided the death penalty and received a sentence of life without parole by confessing to the murder of Van Treese, in exchange for testifying against Glossip.
Knight is a well-known Colorado attorney who specializes in capital punishment cases. He presented a document he and two other Glossip advocates, Kathleen Lord and Mark Olive, call the “eight is enough” reasons to doubt Glossip’s guilt. The document contends there were at least eight very different stories told by Sneed.
“I can tell you from a political standpoint there is nothing to gain when you get involved in something like this, and the only reason I’m here is because I do believe, personally, that we have an innocent man on death row,” said McDugle.
“We did a thorough investigation on this case,” Knight stated. “We interviewed more than 190 people in this case. We consulted more than 15 expert witnesses, forensic pathologists, serologists, forensic accountants, polygraph experts, FBI and crime scene experts.”
McDugle is a supporter of Oklahoma’s death penalty, but after reviewing new evidence he now believes Glossip’s case needs a closer review.
In an Op Ed to the TulsaWorld, Rep. McDugle stated, “Either we get the death penalty right, or we don’t do it.’
An article by Maurice Chammah and Keri Blakinger for The Marshall Project states: “A few years ago, conservative business owner Justin Jackson watched ‘Killing Richard Glossip,’ a four-part series on Investigation Discovery… and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Jackson is friends with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, and while the two were hunting deer, he voiced his concerns. Eventually, Jackson cold-called Glossip’s lawyer and offered his help, and he started talking about the case to friends in the legislature, including McDugle.”
Last week, a group of 16 Oklahoma legislators, largely Republican, traveled to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester to learn more about the case. While there, some of the representatives met with Glossip on Oklahoma’s underground death row.
Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane) Chair of the House Public Safety Commission, one of the lawmakers who met with Glossip and who has signed the letter calling for an investigation into his case, has 30 years of law enforcement experience.
Humphrey said: “I support the death penalty but only if we know for certain that the person is guilty of the crime. Before we stick a poison needle in Rich Glossip’s arm, I believe qualified people need to take a look at the new evidence and his whole case. Rich’s lawyers showed us everything they have and let us ask any questions we wanted. If the prosecutors are confident in their case, then they need to lay their cards on the table and let us take a look. That’s all we’re asking.”
McDugle, lead author of the letter, stated, “Twenty-nine new witnesses and experts have signed sworn affidavits and are ready to testify that there are serious problems with various aspects of the prosecution’s case.
“Some of these witnesses tell us Sneed framed Rich Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty himself. It looks very possible that an innocent man has been on death row for more than two decades. We urge the Governor and Pardon and Parole Board to allow for a thorough investigation into this entire case. Oklahoma cannot be in the business of killing innocent people.”
The press release states: Glossip’s conviction was based primarily on statements made by Sneed that he was hired by Glossip to kill Van Treese. There was no DNA, no fingerprints, and no eyewitnesses implicating Glossip. It was just the admitted killer’s story against Glossip’s. Sneed’s story changed on key points at least eight times.
Knight has repeatedly requested files from Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater that he believes could hold important evidence to proving Glossip’s innocence. In January of this year, Knight wrote a 41-page letter to Prater detailing his request. There has been no response to date.
New evidence uncovered by Glossip’s legal team establishes that the killing was a botched robbery carried out by Sneed and a female accomplice and that Glossip was never involved.
Glossip has exhausted his appeals and was denied clemency in 2014. However, Knight said “because of the delays in the case, the pardon and parole board will hear Glossip’s clemency petition once an execution date is set,” reported Perris Jones of KOCO News.
If a new investigation proves Glossip is innocent, the Pardon and Parole board would then have to recommend clemency for Glossip. The final decision would be made by Gov. Stitt.
A statement from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office stated in part, “Glossip had his day in court. Two juries of his peers have spoken.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater responded in a statement saying, “I rely on the legal process to sanitize the venomous accusations made against me. I am confident that the rule of law will again rule the day and none of the falsehoods and lies will survive”
Last fall a legislative interim study led by McDugle underscored multiple concerns about the death penalty in Oklahoma. However, supporters of the death penalty stressed an intention to, sooner or later, resume state-managed executions.
During that event, McDugle declared that Richard Glossip, one of the state’s most prominent death row inmates, is actually innocent. Knight testified at that hearing on some of the new information his team has uncovered.
Knight told the Interim Study panel, “We found people who had extensive knowledge of Sneed’s intravenous methamphetamine use.”
Knight, who has worked on the case pro bono, indicated that many witnesses are willing to testify that Sneed was a desperate intravenous methamphetamine user willing to trade anything he had for access to drugs and women.
During the course of Glossip’s case, Knight says prosecutors have destroyed evidence, intimidated and even arrested witnesses.
Knight was first introduced to the Glossip case by his longtime friend Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, a noted anti-death penalty advocate, and Glossip’s spiritual advisor.
“What is beautiful about today is that it is Republicans and pro death penalty people who now have so many doubts and questions about Richard’s case,” Prejean said. “We currently have 185 wrongfully convicted people in the US that have been lucky enough to get off of death row. We almost killed them. For every 9 people we execute in this country we had to let 1 go because we made another mistake because the truth didn’t come out in the courts. The jury didn’t hear all the facts. And the jury didn’t hear all the eight versions that Justin Sneed gave.
“The fact is there are so many questions about Richard’s case and whether Justin Sneed told the truth. I want to praise the politicians for speaking out,” Prejean added. “You can be for the death penalty, in theory, but it shows how strong and principled politicians can be. They raise questions, come out publicly, and write letters to the Governor. We need more politicians like that.”
Glossip has endured three scheduled executions, the last of which, on Sept. 30, 2015, was not postponed until 45 minutes after he was scheduled to die. The mistakes made by the state in that botched execution has led to a moratorium that has continued into this year.
Knight stated in his January correspondence to Prater, “If you are confident in your evidence and it is unassailable, as it should be to support the execution of a citizen of Oklahoma, there is nothing to be gained from refusing to reveal it now. I’m interested in getting this stuff and if they haven’t got it, then it’s time to start talking about letting Rich go.
“I’m thankful to Representatives McDugle and Humphrey for giving us the opportunity to use Rich’s case to highlight the serious problems that grow from defense attorneys who fail to do even the most basic work on behalf of their clients, and how the appeals are not designed to remedy these problems,” Knight said.
“I’m thankful to Representative McDugle for giving us the opportunity to use Rich’s case to highlight the serious problems that grow from defense attorneys who fail to do even the most basic work on behalf of their clients, and how the appeals are not designed to remedy these problems,” Knight said.
“This letter, signed by almost a quarter of all legislators in Oklahoma, speaks to the high value all Oklahomans place on justice and morality,” Knight told The City Sentinel. “It is clear that Oklahomans have no desire to kill an innocent man. We are hopeful that an independent law firm will be appointed to look at our evidence, and we invite Mr. Prater’s office to join in this request and give that firm access to all they have. If Mr. Prater is certain of his evidence, he should have no trouble doing so. We are convinced that all the evidence in the case, when looked at independently, will confirm what we already know. That Mr. Glossip is innocent of any involvement in this murder. We will continue to prepare for Mr. Glossip’s clemency hearing and explore other avenues that might open up to spare Mr. Glossip, the Van Treese family, and the citizens of Oklahoma the deep pain and justifiable outcry of setting another execution date for this innocent man.”
For more information, visit SaveRichardGlossip.com.
Signing McDugle’s letter to Gov. Stitt were:
Oklahoma State Representatives:
Garry Mize (R-Guthrie)
Mickey Dollens (D-Oklahoma City)
Denise Brewer (D-Tulsa)
Collin Walke (D-Oklahoma City)
Preston Stinson (R-Edmond)
John Waldron (D-Tulsa)
Jeff Boatman (R-Tulsa)
Emily Virgin (D-Norman)
John Talley (R-Stillwater)
Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore)
Brian Hill (R-Mustang)
Gerrid Kendrix (R-Altus)
Rusty Cornwell (R-Vinita)
Jay Steagall (R-Yukon)
Dick Lowe (R-Amber)
JJ Humphrey (R-Lane)
Kenton Pakowsky (R-Balko)
Wendi Stearman (R-Collinsville)
Stan May (R-Broken Arrow)
Eddie Dempsey (R-Valliant)
Ken Lurell (R-Ponca City)
Marilyn Stark (R-Bethany)
Max Wolfley (R-Oklahoma City)
Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow)
Ty Burns (R-Perry)
Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa)
Randy Randleman (R-Eufaula)
Dell Kerbs (R-Shawnee)
Oklahoma State Senators:
Shane Jett (R-Shawnee)
Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow)
Blake “Cowboy” Stephens (R-Tahlequah)
David Bullard (R-Durant)
Rob Standridge (R-Norman)
Warren Hamilton (R-McCurtain)