by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – A closely divided Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has voted to deny several issues raised on appeal from attorneys for Richard E. Glossip. Monday (September 28) in a 3-2 ruling, the panel rebuffed post-conviction relief, a motion for evidentiary hearing and a motion for discovery and emergency request of an execution stay.
In a separate 3-2 vote, the jurists turned down a motion that the state restart the process for scheduling Glossip’s execution.
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay, Glossip’s execution will take place Wednesday (September 30) at 3 p.m. The court of appeals ruling comes in midst of a week of controversy and turmoil.
Glossip was convicted of a murder-for-hire that took place at an Oklahoma City inn 18 years ago. The government’s case for conviction has hinged throughout on statements of the admitted killer, Justin Sneed, who worked along with Glossip for Barry Van Treese.
The majority opinion by Judge David Lewis affirmed the state government’s position in every particular, saying Glossip’s execution is not a miscarriage of justice. The court, which two weeks ago (September 16) granted a short stay to allow consideration of a brief from his attorneys, refused to allow an evidentiary hearing on what Glossip’s lawyers call new evidence.
For herself and a colleague, Presiding Judge Clancy Smith said that because the execution is imminent (scheduled for Wednesday, September 30, at 3 p.m.), the death row inmate would suffer irreparable harm. The pair therefore supported a new 60-day stay of Glossip’s lethal injection.
By the same margin, the jurists turned thumbs down on a request to reschedule the execution date for 60 days hence.
Don Knight, for himself and three attorneys assisting on Glossip’s legal team, commented, “This case splintered the Court of Criminal Appeals — a 3-2 vote. Two Judges believed a further stay of execution and a hearing on innocence was required on the facts. We should all be deeply concerned about an execution under such circumstances.”
Knight and his colleagues are likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The office of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt applauded the appeals court decision, saying in a prepared statement, “As the court noted in its order, ‘Glossip’s ‘new’ evidence merely expands on theories raised on direct appeal in the original application for post-conviction relief.”
Gov. Mary Fallin, who rebuffed requests for stays of execution to afford attorneys more time, asserted in a statement, “The state of Oklahoma has gone to extraordinary lengths to guarantee that Richard Glossip is treated fairly and that the claims made by him and his attorneys are taken seriously. He has now had multiple trials, seventeen years of appeals and three stays of his execution. Over and over again, courts have rejected his arguments and the information he has presented to support them.”
Both Fallin and Pruitt restated their sympathy for the family of Van Treese, who was beaten to death by Justin Sneed. Over nearly two decades, Sneed’s story about the events of January 7, 1997 has varied at times.
Prosecutors made a deal with the murderer, Sneed, for a sentence of life in prison without parole, in return for his testimony that Glossip paid him for the killing.
Activists who have fought for Glossip’s life expressed deep disappointment over the appeals court decision.
Former state Sen. Connie Johnson, chair of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty, said in a statement to The City Sentinel the coalition was “disappointed but not discouraged. The move to abolish the death penalty in Oklahoma is fortified by the coverage, exposure and public education opportunities that have come with Richard Glossip’s case.
“Our hearts are heavy in anticipation of Mr. Glossip’s state-sponsored murder. Because of this case, more Oklahomans are now educated about the fallacies of the death penalty. They now know that it is entirely possible to execute someone who is potentially innocent, in a criminal justice system that is flawed. May God have mercy on us all.”
OK-CADP’s spokesperson, Rev. Adam Leathers, said, “While every execution is unconscionable, this case is particularly disturbing considering the mountain of evidence that casts doubt on his guilt. Given the new evidence, we do not understand how an objective justice system would not hold a new hearing.”
Beyond the anticipated appeal directly to the nation’s High Court, lingering as a potential legal issue is news report from KOKH Fox 25’s Phil Cross, whose reporting pointed to destruction of evidence before Glossip’s appeals were exhausted. In a tweet today, Cross observed that could “be grounds for federal appeal.”