The execution of Richard Glossip in Oklahoma has been stayed by the Supreme Court
Richard Glossip has been on death row in Oklahoma, USA, for 25 years for a murder it seems likely he did not commit. He was accused of the murder of motel owner Barry van Treese in 1997. The conviction was largely based on the plea bargain struck by Justin Sneed, who has a history of mental illness, in a deal which saved his own life.
Two independent investigations have cast doubt on the veracity of the trial. First the only evidence seemed to be the plea bargain by Sneed who in fact admitted committing the murder. Further testimony by prison inmates was not given to the jury. The State withheld evidence and other evidence was either lost or destroyed by the DA’s office.
As Mr Glossip’s execution date of May 18th draws near, there has been a flurry of activity to get it delayed or vacated. On April 7th, the Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond – a pro death penalty Republican – asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate the conviction. He said “the only witness to allege Mr Glossip was involved in this case cannot be believed, it is unconscionable for the State to move forward with his execution“.
On April 20th, the Oklahoma Court upholds the conviction. On 26th April the Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to recommend clemency on 2-2 vote which meant the Governor, Kevin Stitt, was unable to do so either.
On May 5th, the Supreme Court of the United States stays the execution pending the disposition of two writs of certiorari. Should they be denied this stay will terminate automatically.
So that is the current position. The case reveals some troubling aspects of the legal system in this instance. Relying on plea bargain evidence should not be the sole justification for a conviction let alone an execution. The failure to present all the evidence to court is also questionable and the loss or destruction of other evidence is also to be deplored. The fundamental problem with the death penalty is that mistakes cannot ever be rectified once the deed is done.
We must hope that the intervention of the Supreme Court will lead to the state authorities to think again.
Sources: Death Penalty Information Centre; Wikipedia; New York Times, Save Richard Glossip Campaign