Just over an hour before the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a surprise 37-day stay to address questions about the state’s execution process that the U.S. Supreme Court in June had ruled constitutional.
“Last-minute questions were raised today about Oklahoma’s execution protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection,” Governor Fallin said in a statement. “After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of Corrections, I have issued a 37-day stay of execution while the state addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the protocols approved by federal courts.”
Lawyers and a mix of public figures have attempted to halt the execution of Mr. Glossip, citing evidence of innocence or at least skepticism of guilt in the case. 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 Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals 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.”
Mr. Glossip’s attorneys have argued that Mr. Sneed lacks credibility, given his deal to avoid the death penalty. They have produced two witnesses who served time with Mr. Sneed, who claim that Mr. Sneed stated he acted alone, doing it for money. Another former cellmate in an affidavit wrote that Mr. Sneed boasted that he had set up Mr. Glossip.
Governor Fallin surprised many with the stay, as she had turned down previous requests from defense attorneys to stay the execution.
In a new development, State Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a request for an indefinite stay of the executions of three men scheduled in the next month.
He wrote, “On September 30, 2015, Governor Mary Fallin issued an Executive Order 2015-42 rescheduling Glossip’s execution due to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) receiving potassium acetate rather than potassium chloride, the third drug to be utilized in the execution protocol.”
“Due to the events of September 30, 2015, and the imminence of the above-referenced executions, the Office of the Attorney General needs time to evaluate the events that transpired on
September 30, 2015, ODOC’s acquisition of a drug contrary to protocol, and ODOC’s internal procedures relative to the protocol. The State has a strong interest in ensuring that the execution protocol is strictly followed.”
In statement from the OK-CADP spokesperson Rev. Adam Leathers said, “We at the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are grateful for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s recent request for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to suspend all scheduled executions. We hope they will concur. However, we ask our fellow Oklahomans to consider all of the issues over the availability and supposed ‘safety’ of the three drug cocktail, as well as all of the repeated execution postponements, and all of the complexities and doubt of guilt surrounding Richard Gossip’s case. We must ask ourselves: ‘Is this all worth it?’ How many resources have we as a state wasted and accomplished nothing more than convincing the rest of the world we lack civility?”
Previously, OK-CADP issued statements commending the governor’s decisions to stay the execution.
OK-CADP chair Connie Johnson said, “Our hearts are lightened and spirits encouraged by the Governor’s decision to grant a 37-day stay of execution for Richard Glossip today. While her reasons are less than what we were seeking, the outcome is one for which we are grateful and thankful to God, Who is still in control. Because of today, the need to continue educating Oklahomans about the death penalty’s flaws is greater than ever. Hope springs eternal.”
OK-CADP spokesperson Rev. Adam Leathers said, “We at the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are pleased at the recent 37-day stay of execution issued by Governor Fallin regarding issues over the drug cocktail. Although it was not the kind of stay of execution for which we were hoping and we do not agree with Governor Fallin’s position on the death penalty, she should still be commended for doing her due diligence in fulfilling the law. At the same time we also keep in our thoughts and prayers, Richard Glossip, his family, and the family of Barry Van Treese, for the emotional roller coaster all of them have undoubtedly experienced…a roller coaster that would consequently be eliminated with the abolishment of the Death Penalty.
“We are exceedingly grateful that Pope Francis made a request that Governor Fallin commute the life of Richard Glossip,” Rev. Leathers added. “This is a testament to how widely this case has spread and how the world will define Oklahoma’s civility by what follows.”
Some are hopeful this will give the defense the time they need to make the case for innocence.
—David M. Greenwald reporting