Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
UPDATE: “Killing Richard Glossip,” the two night, two hour documentary, will air Monday, April 17 and Tuesday, April 18 at 9/8 CST on the Investigation Discovery (ID) Channel. Check for local show times in your area.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Investigation Discovery (ID) channel has announced it will broadcast its new documentary, “Killing Richard Glossip,” this spring.
News of the documentary’s scheduled broadcast comes as Oklahomans await a February report from the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, under former Governor Brad Henry, detailing problems with the state’s execution process .
The exclusive world premiere two-night event is the work of award-winning, documentary film-maker Joe Berlinger. In the words of a press release, Berlinger has “dedicated his career to exposing abuses in the criminal justice system.”
Berlinger and his film crew have made several trips to Oklahoma City to investigate the conviction and 19-year incarceration of Richard Glossip, whom many analysts (including this reporter) have come to believe is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted – allegedly paying an accomplice to murder the owner of the Best Budget Inn, where Glossip worked, on Jan. 7, 1997.
Berlinger’s documentary flows from dozens of additional interviews, including with the lead detectives in the case.
He has also interviewed Don Knight, one of Glossip’s attorneys (working pro bono) whose re-investigation has triggered deep introspection among Oklahomans concerning the efficacy of capital punishment.
When details of the scheduled documentary were revealed at the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press meeting, Sister Helen Prejean commented, “We need journalists and people like you to open the curtain and expose these truths. There is such a thing as truth.”
On the panel with Sister Prejean were Berlinger, Knight and Oscar winning actress Susan Sarandon, who portrayed Prejean in the film “Dead Man Walking.”
Sister Helen is featured in the forthcoming documentary, along with Sarandon, who has championed the case for Glossip’s innocence.
“This new documentary about the Richard Glossip case raises public awareness for all Oklahomans and the rest of the nation that wrongful convictions occur,” said Mary E. Sine, Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty executive board member. “The possibility of executing an innocent person should curb the desire for vengeance.”
In a release sent out over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, Henry Schleiff, group president for Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America, said, “Nine out of ten times, the American justice system gets it right. Sadly, it’s the unpredictability of that one time it goes astray that has resulted in a staggering amount of people who claim their innocence as they sit on death row.
“There is a growing consensus of people worldwide that believe Richard Glossip is innocent. Consequently, this convergence of forces – including the support of filmmaker Joe Berlinger who is no stranger to reporting on flaws in the criminal justice system – is why our team at ID feels it’s imperative to provide a platform for the public to hear all sides of the story.”
Berlinger reflected, “Even if you think Richard Glossip might be guilty, his three separate trips to the execution chamber is reason enough to deeply question the sanity of the death penalty.
“But when you add to the mix that the case for his innocence is so compelling, then Richard Glossip’s cruel odyssey through the justice system is a wake-up call for how broken capital punishment is in this country.”
As summarized in the ID release, “Glossip, a man with no prior felony convictions, has consistently maintained his innocence, insisting that he had no knowledge that anyone planned to kill Van Treese. Justin Sneed, who admitted to killing the victim and whose fingerprints were found in the room, cut a deal for a life sentence instead of risking the death penalty by telling the police that Glossip hired him to do it.”
Berlinger has been nominated for Academy Awards, and won Peabody and Emmy awards for his “Paradise Lost” trilogy of documentaries that presaged release of one man from death row and two others from life-in-prison sentences.