Oklahoma City – Friday afternoon, May 5, the U.S. Supreme Court issues a brief ruling blocking the execution of death row inmate Richard Glossip.
Glossip's execution date will be delayed while his court challenges continue.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the decision to respond positively to the petition from Glossip's attorneys that he be allowed time to complete appeals.
An Investigation undertaken by members of the Oklahoma Legislature -- led by a group of conservative Republicans -- and undertaken by the Reed Smith law firm of Texas (frequently deemed a "right-leaning group of lawyers") over roughly two years found a deep well of apparent prosecutorial malfeasance.
Subsequently, state Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who took office in January, undertook his own investigation, with an independent counsel who was, himself, a former state legislator and well-known "tough-on-crime" prosecutor. That investigation essentially verified the concerns previously raised.
Drummond then "confessed error" in a late April filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, supporting motions from defense lawyer Don Knight, a Colorado attorney who has worked pro bono on the Glossip case for eight years.
The "confession" of error is unprecedented in Oklahoma legal history for capital punishment proceedings.
Just yesterday, Sister Helen Prejean, an acclaimed anti-death penalty activist and author of the best-selling "Dead Man Walking" appeared with several of the conservative legislators and a diverse group of faith leaders.
With a combination of wit and deep seriousness, she expressed solidarity with the group, saying she had come to know that Oklahomans -- even those disagreeing with her on many aspects of the issue -- "would never countenance the execution of an innocent man."
After hearing the news, Glossip’s attorney Don Knight said, “We are very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for doing the right thing in stopping Richard Glossip’s unlawful execution. There is nothing more harrowing than the thought of executing a man who the State now admits has never received a fair trial. Thankfully, for the time being, Mr. Glossip is out of peril. Our hope is that the Court will reverse the decision of the OCCA and vacate Mr. Glossip’s conviction once and for all.”
Knight continued, “We are deeply thankful to the many courageous people in Oklahoma, especially Attorney General Gentner Drummond, Reps. McDugle and Humphrey, and the many legislators in Oklahoma who have taken a deeper look at Mr. Glossip’s case and stood in opposition to the execution of this innocent man.”
Attorney General Gentner Drummond made the following remarks today regarding stay of execution for Richard Glossip: “I am very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for their decision to grant a stay of execution. I will continue working to ensure justice prevails in this important case.”
Sister Helen Prejean, Glossip’s spiritual advisor since 2015, made this statement: “I’m so heartened to know that Oklahoma will not kill an innocent man on May 18. I spent some time with Richard Glossip on Friday and learned about the stay of execution just a few minutes after leaving the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Richard is not out of the woods yet, but there is now time to pursue every avenue available in the courts and elsewhere.”
She continued, “I can’t help but think about the fact that Richard has faced imminent execution so many times already – at least nine execution dates and three last meals. This system is the legalized practice of torture, and it’s especially torturous when two independent investigations reached the conclusion that Richard never had a fair trial in the first place. I pray this is the last time Rich must fill out paperwork for his own burial and name witnesses to his own death.
“Many thanks to Rich’s legal team, all the state legislators speaking out on his behalf, and the many Oklahomans who support true justice in this case,” Prejean added. “The fight isn’t over yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Note: McGuigan is editor emeritus, and Darla Shelden is senior reporter, for The City Sentinel newspaper (Oklahoma City). Visit city-sentinel.com for years of news stories, analyses and commentaries focused on the Glossip case.
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