By David M. Greenwald
Oklahoma City, OK – If there was any doubt that Richard Glossip was wrongly convicted and sentenced to die in Oklahoma, the report released on Wednesday and the strong statement by Republican Representative Kevin McDugle should have put that to rest during a press conference announcing the findings of a third party investigation.
The 343-page report was conducted by the law firm Reed Smith, a 30-member lawyer team assisted by Crowe & Dunlevy of Oklahoma.
“The investigative report confirmed in my mind that we do have an innocent man on death row,” McDugle said. “In my opinion, this entire case against Richard Glossip was manipulated by the detective in charge, and that Richard Glossip has now been behind bars because of the gross misconduct of the DA’s office and the investigation.”
“In Oklahoma, we don’t seek convictions, we seek justice,” he said.
The report, McDugle said, confirms to him, among other things, “the interview tapes where detectives led their suspects to give answers that fit their narrative rather than seeking information were never viewed by any jury.” Juries were asked if seeing those tapes would have changed their mind, and many said it would have.
McDugle said that Justin Sneed, “the actual murderer was, given a plea deal in order to point the finger at someone else.
“The state convinced the jury that Richard Glossip was embezzling money but there is literally no evidence to support it other than hearsay,” he said.
Moreover, he said, “there is proof that the DA’s office purposefully destroyed a box of evidence that could have exonerated Richard Glossip before his second trial.”
A key witness was under investigation for lying in other court cases, “and eventually went to jail for the same.” McDugle said, “He was one of the key witnesses that put Richard Glossip in prison.”
McDugle called for Oklahoma to do the right thing.
“We need to right this wrong by allowing this new evidence to be heard in criminal appeals court. If the jury had seen the evidence that this investigation uncovered, Richard Glossip would have been set free 24 years ago.”
Stanley Perry from Reed Smith Law Firm said that their intent was to shed light on this murder and noted that his law firm worked over 3000 hours, with over 30 attorneys involved, and did so pro-bono, no charge to the state of Oklahoma.
He noted that they interviewed witnesses who had never been interviewed before, conducted over 72 interviews, reviewed 12,000 documents and over 140,000 pages.
“After this work, our analysis, our conclusion is that no reasonable juror hearing the complete record and the uncovered facts detailed in this report would have convicted Richard Glossip of capital murder,” Perry said. “There were systemic breakdowns in the case from the police.”
He noted that the room was never locked down, witnesses on site that were never interviewed, evidence taken that night that was returned and not provided to defense counsel.
“They did not do a thorough independent investigation that should be warranted in any case, much less a capital murder case,” he said.
He also charged that the prosecution destroyed a box before the second trial (Glossip’s first trial was reversed for ineffective assistance of counsel). A box containing ten items—duct tape, shower curtain, financial records—was destroyed.
“That’s inexcusable,” he said. “Compelling evidence that should have been evaluated, should have been presented to the jury, disappeared.”
A key witness, Sneed, Perry said changed his account many times. Perry was especially critical that they “planted in the mind of Sneed that Glossip did it” and warned him that Glossip would point his finger at him if he did not come clean.
Sneed, Perry said, was addicted to meth and had a violent history. Those facts were never presented to the jury—on the contrary, he was described as mild and meek and thus susceptible to manipulation by Glossip.
Perry was asked what happens now. He acknowledged, “I don’t know. We are not counsel for Mr. Glossip. He has counsel. Frankly, I don’t know the next step.”
McDugle addressed issues of capital punishment.
“We do have people on death row from time to time with questions as to whether or not they should be right,” he said. “In this particular case, there are not only deep questions but grave concern that there was manipulation in the entire process.”
He urged the Attorney General to look at this as new evidence that has come to light.
“A lot of what they brought is new evidence,” he said. “They found conclusive proof that the DA destroyed evidence. This is a wrong done by Oklahoma that we have to get right.”
Justin Humphrey, another Republican, noted that he favors the death penalty, but cases like this undermine confidence in the process.
“Nationally, there are moves afoot to eliminate the death penalty,” Humphrey said. “Neither I, nor Rep. McDugle, support that, but if innocent men are put to death without being offered a fresh, properly-conducted trial at which all available evidence is presented for jurors to assess, our system of law and order will inevitably come under attack leaving us all less safe.”
McDugle said, “I think we can get it right but we’re going to have to work hard to get it right.”
He said it will require third party review of these kinds of cases.
But he warned, “If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty simply because this process is not secure.”
“I do believe in the death penalty, I believe it needs to be there, but the process that it takes to put somebody to death needs to be of the highest integrity,” he added.
Following the press conference, Don Knight, attorney for Glossip, issued a statement: “The Reed Smith report presents the clearest evidence yet of Richard Glossip’s innocence. It is now undeniable that a botched and sloppy police investigation, reckless handling of evidence by the prosecution, and incompetent defense attorneys put an innocent man on death row. I believe it would be a disservice to the people of Oklahoma and our justice system to execute one of Oklahoma’s citizens on such flimsy grounds.”
He added, “In the coming days, Mr. Glossip’s defense team will file a request for a hearing with the Oklahoma Court of Appeals so this new evidence of innocence can be examined in a court of law.”
Knight added, “Based on the scope of this in-depth and independent investigation, and its clear findings, we ask Attorney General John M. O’Connor to refrain from setting an execution date until these new facts get a fair hearing, and to join us in seeking justice for Richard Glossip. Twenty-five years on death row for a crime we all now know he did not commit, is a terrible injustice. Thankfully, there is still time to make it right.”