By Rena Abdusalam
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Lawyers for death row inmate Richard Glossip filed a Brady application for post-conviction relief with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals late this week.
Revealed through a new report by the law firm Reed Smith, the lawyers declared key evidence was denied trial defense attorneys, making it unavailable to be used during Glossip’s defense in his second trial.
Working as a hotel manager in 1997, Glossip was convicted in the killing of his boss, Barry Van Treese.
Justin Sneed, the self-proclaimed killer of Treese, asserted the murder was Glossip’s idea, who promised him $10,000 in exchange for killing Treese. Sneed avoided the death penalty and received a life sentence for testifying against Glossip.
Nevertheless, Glossip continued to plead innocence.
Known as a Brady violation—not providing the defense exculpatory information, the powerful new evidence shows that over an 11-year period starting in 2003, Sneed explored the idea of recanting with many individuals, as shown through his letters to his attorney, his own confessions before the second trial, and his discussions to his daughter and mother.
However, he was repeatedly cautioned by his attorney that a recant would result in a death sentence.
Documented through a 2014 letter by Sneed’s daughter, Justine Sneed, Reed Smith has found the evidence accurately represented the conversations about Sneed’s inclination to recant, despite Sneed’s refusal to admit his daughter’s authenticity.
The letter is joined with earlier evidence, such as Sneed having six conversations with other prisoners about the recant. Sneed indicated in all resources that Glossip had nothing to do with the murder, that he set Glossip up to get back at him, or to avoid getting the death penalty.
In addition, Sneed was found to use the word “recant” and indicate that he had a desire to change his testimony, as shown through a conversation between Sneed and his attorney. In exchange for testifying in the second trial, he desired a negotiation of a plea bargain with his attorney, said Glossip’s lawyers.
It is also shown, said the defense, prosecutors inappropriately gave Sneed information to guarantee his testimony was consistent with the presented evidence, including, during the second trial, introducing evidence about the victim being attacked not only with a baseball bat, but also with a knife.
That made Sneed alter his testimony, saying he had used a knife as well. Sneed claimed in the beginning that he had used a baseball bat, but not a knife, which is very much contrary to his future statements, claims the defense.
“The State’s evidence has always been weak, relying on just one person’s testimony, Justin Sneed, to convict Richard Glossip of a capital crime. But rather than play by the rules, the State decided to cheat to secure a conviction,” said the defense.
Richard Glossip’s lead Attorney Don Knight said, “If a jury knew that, up until moments before he testified at trial, Justin Sneed was seeking to recant or withdraw his testimony, it would have seriously damaged his credibility. Also, if we had known this important evidence during our attempts to seek a new trial in 2015 we might have succeeded in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.”
He added, “Justin Sneed has been a consistent liar throughout his life. The State knew all of this then, but still did not disclose it. We ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals now to grant a new trial because the State withheld evidence that likely would have resulted in finding Richard Glossip innocent.”
“I am outraged, as a pro-death penalty conservative, to see how critical evidence can be manipulated and withheld so that an innocent man can be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. This conduct is unacceptable,” Oklahoma State Representative JJ Humphrey said.
He added, “If mistakes were made, it’s time for law enforcement officials and prosecutors to admit them and let justice be done in this case. We need to get to the bottom of whether this conduct by the prosecutors in this trial is criminal or not.”
The Brady application can be found here. The supporting documents can be found here, here and here. The 2014 letter can be viewed here. Reed Smith’s Third Supplemental Report can be found here.