Oklahoma Appeals Court Will Allow Execution of Glossip to Go Forward

Death Penalty

death-penaltyWhile the attorneys for Richard Glossip plan to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court today, it is possible and even probable that his life will effectively end on a 3-2 decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA), Oklahoma’s highest criminal court.

Donald R. Knight issued a statement Monday, stating, “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.”

Mr. Glossip is accused of paying the admitted killer, Justin Sneed, serving a life sentence, to kill Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn where Mr. Glossip worked as the resident manager. He claims that Mr. Sneed concocted the story in order to avoid the death penalty.

The court reviewed evidence, but ultimately ruled narrowly against him.

“None of the trial witnesses have recanted their testimony, and Glossip has presented no credible evidence that the witnesses gave falsified testimony at trial,” Judge David Lewis wrote in the opinion. “Glossip’s conviction is not based solely on the testimony of a co-defendant and the execution of the sentence will not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

OK-CADP (Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) chair Connie Johnson issued a statement: “The criminal appeals court’s decision not to hold a hearing for Richard Glossip sets the stage for yet another state murder in the name of all Oklahomans, this Wednesday at 3 PM. We are 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 spokesperson Rev. Adam Leathers added, “We at the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are disappointed at the OCCA’s recent ruling to not hold a new hearing in the Richard Glossip case. 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.”

A release from the defense team argues that two new developments “further support Mr. Glossip’s innocence.”

First, they claim no one should believe the sworn word of “an admitted liar, drug abuser, and thief.” They argue, “This perfectly describes the only witness against Mr. Glossip:  Sneed, an admitted liar, drug abuser, and thief.  And confessed cold-blooded murderer, now serving time in a medium security prison.”

Second, Mr. Sneed has given a videotaped interview to a member of the press. “In this interview, Sneed continues to lie and demonstrate his inability to keep his many lying stories straight.  Oklahoma must not execute Mr. Glossip based solely upon the words of this admitted liar, drug abuser, and thief.”

In the State’s Response to the Petitioner’s first Supplement to Successive Application for Post-Conviction Review filed on Thursday, September 24, in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the State attempts to dismiss two witnesses who gave affidavits in support of Mr. Glossip’s innocence.  In so doing, the State has exposed Justin Sneed, the only witness against Mr. Glossip, as “inherently suspect.”

In the State’s filing, the affidavits of Joe Tapley and Michael Scott are called “inherently suspect.” The State cites Mr. Tapley’s criminal history in an attempt to show that “he is not a trustworthy witness who can offer ‘clear and convincing’ evidence” of Mr. Glossip’s innocence.

The State concludes that “[p]ut simply, the ‘inherently suspect’ affidavit of an individual who has been repeatedly convicted of crimes involving deceit, describing alleged conversations that occurred almost 20 years ago while Mr. Sneed and Mr. Tapley may have been under the influence of methamphetamine, does not even come close to being clear and convincing evidence of petitioner’s actual innocence.”

The State then addresses Mr. Scott, calling his affidavit “suspect” because “he admitted in a confidential ODOC [Oklahoma Department of Corrections] document leaked to the press that he had lied, and also admitted past use of cocaine, marijuana, inhalants, amphetamines, and barbiturates.”

The State “derided his convictions for DUI, possession of controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, driving without a license, and robbery with a firearm, and concluded:  ‘[s]urely the affidavit of an admitted liar, drug abuser, and thief…does not rise to the level of the clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence that would warrant an evidentiary hearing.’”

According to the State, the defense argues, “if a witness has a criminal history involving crimes of ‘deceit,’ has made statements while under the influence of methamphetamine, admits to polysubstance abuse, is a known liar, drug abuser, and thief, then he is to be considered ‘inherently suspect’ and cannot be trusted.”

“Justin Sneed was just 19 years old when he murdered Barry Van Treese,” the defense argues. They point out that, even at 19, he already had a lengthy criminal history that included crimes of “deceit.”

According to statements made to Dr. Edith King, “he admitted that he wrote checks knowing that there was not money to cover the checks, placed a bomb threat to a school knowing that there was no bomb, and entered a house without permission, to commit a crime.  He also admitted that, even by the young age of 19, he had used a variety of drugs, including marijuana, crank, cocaine, and acid.  He lied to Detectives Bemo and Cook about his involvement in the murder of Barry Van Treese.”

These factors alone, the defense maintains, put him in the State’s category of “an admitted liar, drug abuser, and thief.” “This makes him someone who inherently should not be believed.  However, there is so much more in Sneed’s history that, according to the State’s own standards, must be considered.”

Justin Sneed also admitted to Dr. King that he “used to get angry quite often” and “yell at teachers and reject everyone and get into fights.”

He was kicked out of school in the 8th grade (only five years before he killed Barry Van Treese) for “fighting with other students and teachers. He was described as a troublemaker.”  He admitted that he “used to ‘reject authority’ and as a boy often got into trouble.

According to Dr. King, the lithium he was prescribed while jailed after the killing of Barry Van Treese “is probably helping him control his moods.”

And, in great contrast to Scott and Tapley, “Justin Sneed beat a man to death with a baseball bat.  And since being incarcerated, Sneed’s ODOC records show that he was disciplined twice for battery, once in 2003 and again in 2007.  By contrast, Mr. Glossip has no disciplinary actions on his record, even after 17 years in the penitentiary.”

The defense argues, “The State wants to put Mr. Glossip to death based upon only the word of a man who has a record that is much worse, in every way, than is Mr. Scott’s or Mr. Tapley’s.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    The hypocrisy and callous disregard for truth or justice here is overwhelming. The state of Oklahoma is apparently willing to accept the word of one “inherently suspect” individual over the word of two other “inherently suspect individuals” and on this basis take the life of an individual who may or  may not have perpetrated the crime. This while not choosing to execute the person known to have actually committed the murder.

    My point is not that either man should be executed, but rather that neither should given the inherently fallible nature of our ability to determine guilt or innocence.

        1. Barack Palin

          I’m still there, I have no problem with Gosslip serving a life sentence.  Just wanted to point out that the case didn’t come down solely to one person’s testimony.

  2. David Greenwald

    I am opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, but if you are going to allow for the death penalty, it needs to be unanimous.  A 3-2 decision is too close a call for death.

      1. David Greenwald

        Fundamentally: I don’t believe the Government has the right to determine who lives and who dies. I also believe that the system is flawed in terms of determining guilt/ innocence. I also believe that the death penalty is systematically biased against people of colors – people of color are more likely to be sentenced to death for the same crimes as white people. People who kill white people are far more likely to get the death penalty than people who kill people of colors. I can go on if you wish.

  3. hpierce

    “I don’t believe the Government has the right to determine who lives and who dies.”  OK.  So, if government should not, as a representative of the people, then no individual should have the right to ‘determine who lives and who dies’?

    “I also believe that the system is flawed in terms of determining guilt/ innocence.”  OK.  How would you envision that those flaws could be remedied? This point goes far beyond the death penalty.  If these “flaws” are not remedied, why should anyone have their liberties taken?

    “I also believe that the death penalty is systematically biased against people of colors – people of color are more likely to be sentenced to death for the same crimes as white people. People who kill white people are far more likely to get the death penalty than people who kill people of colors“.  OK.  This one is a ‘gimme’.  Statistically true.  Not sure about causality (‘systematically’), “beyond a reasonable doubt”.




      1. Tia Will

        I was not asked directly, but would like to add an additional thought to David’s response all of which I agree with. Humans are not God and we should not be playing God based on either our religious or political beliefs.

        I also believe that if one individual does not have the right to take a life, then there is no justification for 12 individuals deciding to take a life just because they are selected in a state sponsored and approved manner. I also do not believe that penalties should be used as punishment. I believe in societal protection, not punishment of individuals for misdeeds.

        The determination for me should be, is this individual so dangerous that he cannot live freely in our society. If the answer to that question is determined to be “yes” then the individual should be isolated humanely from society. A good example of this situation for me would be Charles Manson. And I am not basing my response purely on the heinous nature of his crimes but on some knowledge of his ongoing psychologic status. If the answer is “no” then a definitive plan of rehabilitation with timelines determined and goal set that if met will lead to the individual’s release when rehabilitation has been determined to be achieved.

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