By Amy Berberyan
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Death row inmate Richard Glossip’s attorneys filed a clemency petition late this week in an effort to prevent the State of Oklahoma from a fourth execution attempt on Sept. 22.
In 1997, Glossip was convicted of commissioning the murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of the motel Glossip managed.
Glossip’s conviction relied on the testimony of Justin Sneed, the man who beat Van Treese with a baseball bat. Sneed only implicated Glossip after being told doing so would prevent his own execution, said Glossip’s lawyers.
Sneed had both a criminal record related to robberies and a meth addiction at the time of the crime. After being captured, he described the murder as a “botched robbery.” All forensic evidence found at the scene of the crime incriminates Sneed, with none pointing to Glossip, wrote Glossip’s lawyers.
The clemency petition claims Glossip “had no prior criminal record and has been a model prisoner for over 25 years while he has still maintained his innocence.”
Glossip’s attorneys attribute his conviction to “an inexcusably negligent police investigation, coercive and unreliable interrogation techniques, intentional destruction by the State of key physical evidence prior to the trial, prosecutors’ presentation of unvetted, unreliable evidence and incompetent state-provided defense attorneys, among other breakdowns of the justice system.”
Glossip could not afford good lawyers at his original trial—his attorney had never worked on a murder case before. No investigator was hired and only his girlfriend was called as a witness. The prosecution team, on the other hand, destroyed evidence and intimidated witnesses, claim Glossip’s lawyers now.
Prior to this clemency petition, a letter signed by 62 Oklahoma state legislators—many pro-death penalty—called for both an evidentiary hearing for Glossip and an independent investigation.
Reed Smith, the man assigned to lead this investigation, already uncovered a letter written by Sneed in which he expresses the desire to renounce the testimony he gave implicating Glossip. Sneed had not done so previously because, said Smith, his attorney claimed Sneed would end up on death row.
Glossip’s lead counsel, Don Knight, said, “The clock is ticking down for Richard Glossip. Over 40 percent of the legislature and many wonderful Oklahomans are concerned that the State will be executing an innocent man.