Oklahoma Authorities Deadlock on Clemency for Richard Glossip, Due for Execution May 18 Despite New Evidence and Support from Politicians, Including OK Attorney General

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By The Vanguard Staff

OKLHOMA CITY, OK – After the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s decision not to act, the attorney for Richard Glossip Wednesday urged the Oklahoma governor to step in and grant a delay for Glossip, who is facing a May 18 execution date despite huge support, including politicians, the OK Attorney General and new evidence.

On a 2-2 vote, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board “failed to recommend that Richard Glossip be granted clemency. Mr. Glossip is an innocent man who has been on death row for 25 years,” according to a statement by the defense team.

“We call on Governor Stitt to grant a reprieve of Richard Glossip’s scheduled execution on May 18, 2023 because the execution of an innocent man would be an irreversible injustice. We will pursue every avenue in the courts to stop this unlawful judicial execution,” said Glossip attorney Don Knight.

According to the OK Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Oklahoma Pardon & Parole Board “deadlocked 2-2, with Ed Koneiczny and Calvin Prince voting yes for clemency, Richard Miller and Cathy Stocker voting no.” The tiebreaker/fifth member recused himself because “his spouse is a prosecutor who had previous involvement in Glossip’s case.”

““The Pardon and Parole Board was unmoved by the Attorney General’s joining in the request for clemency. It was unmoved by two independent investigations that concluded that Richard Glossip was entitled to a new trial. It was unmoved by character testimony that Glossip had no criminal record before he was arrested in the Barry Van Treese case and that Glossip has displayed exemplary conduct in prison the last 26 years. 

“After today’s rejection of clemency, it is hard to imagine a case that would move this Board. It is lacking in mercy and forgiveness. We applaud the Attorney General for having the courage and integrity to admit that errors were made at Glossip’s trial and to join in the request for clemency. We are still hoping for a miracle from the U.S. Supreme Court. We are still hoping that Glossip’s life will be spared,” said Rev. Don Heath, OK-CADP chair.

“New evidence has shown that Justin Sneed, the person who committed the murder and the star witness for the prosecution, lied on the stand and wanted to recant his false testimony. If the jury had known what we know now, they never would have convicted Mr. Glossip. The national law firm Reed Smith undertook a thorough, independent review of this case and concluded that no reasonable juror who heard all the evidence, which has never been presented, would have found Mr. Glossip guilty of murder for hire,” added Knight.

The defense attorney then noted that an independent counsel appointed by the  state Attorney General reviewed the cases and found “multiple instances of error that cast serious doubt on Mr. Glossip’s conviction,” and “then took the extraordinary step of conceding error, citing ‘material misrepresentations’ by Mr. Sneed, and asked the court to throw out not just Mr. Glossip’s death sentence, but his entire conviction.”

Knight said the “public support for Mr. Glossip is diverse, widespread, and growing, including at least 45 death penalty supporting Republicans in the Legislature who also reached the conclusion that there is too much doubt to execute Mr. Glossip. It would be a travesty for Oklahoma to move forward with the execution of an innocent man.”

Glossip Case Background (as provided by the legal team):

“Richard Glossip has been on Oklahoma’s death row for more than 25 years even though it is not disputed that another man, Justin Sneed, murdered Barry Van Treese. Mr. Glossip’s conviction is based almost entirely on statements made by Justin Sneed that it now clearly appears he wanted to recant. Mr. Glossip has always maintained his innocence.

“Mr. Glossip’s execution has been rescheduled eight times since 2015 and is currently scheduled for May 18, 2023. On March 27, Attorney General Gentner Drummond and attorneys for Mr. Glossip filed a joint Motion for Stay of Execution with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) seeking a delay of the scheduled execution until August 2024.

“On April 6, the AG conceded error in Mr. Glossip’s case and asked the CCA to vacate Mr. Glossip’s conviction citing “material misstatements” by the prosecution’s main witness, and the AG’s own Independent Counsel’s report documenting multiple instances of error that cast doubt on Mr. Glossip’s conviction. The CCA denied those requests on April 20.

“On Jan. 26, 2023, Attorney General Drummond announced that he was directing an Independent Counsel to conduct a comprehensive review of Richard Glossip’s murder conviction and death sentence. An ad hoc group of Republican Oklahoma state legislators had previously called for an independent investigation, and commissioned their own that was conducted by the international law firm Reed Smith.  

“That investigation resulted in a finding that, if a jury was presented with all the evidence now available, no reasonable juror would find Mr. Glossip guilty of murder for hire. At the conclusion of his Independent Counsel’s investigation, AG Drummond stated: “After thorough and serious deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot stand behind the murder conviction and death sentence of Richard Glossip,” and he asked the c to set aside Mr. Glossip’s conviction and remand the case to the district court. That request was denied on April 20.

“On Aug. 16, 2022, Gov. Kevin Stitt granted a 60-day reprieve for Mr. Glossip, staying his execution that had been set for September 22, 2022, ‘to allow time for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to address a pending legal proceeding.’ On Nov. 2, 2022, Gov. Stitt granted an additional 60-day reprieve to accommodate continued legal proceedings, setting the new date for Feb. 16, 2023.

“On Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, 2022, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued opinions denying Mr. Glossip’s two applications for post-conviction relief, without allowing him to present any new evidence, and thereby defying the requests of sixty-two state legislators, including 45 Republicans, who backed a call for an evidentiary hearing based on newly-discovered evidence.

“Some of the newly-discovered evidence comes from the Third, Fourth, and a newly released Fifth Supplement to the Reed Smith independent investigation which found, among other important issues, that the state’s key witness, Justin Sneed, talked about recanting his testimony over the course of 11 years, both before and after Glossip’s second trial, including a handwritten note in which he asks his attorney, ‘Do I have the choice of recanting at any time during my life?’ and a second note stating that his testimony was ‘a mistake.’ 

“Mr. Glossip’s attorneys never knew this crucial information. Given how heavily the State’s case depended on Sneed, who only testified in exchange for a deal that spared him his own death sentence, this revelation fatally undermines the conviction.

“The investigation by Reed Smith also included a series of conversations Reed Smith lawyers had with Justin Sneed in late August and early September in which he agreed that over the years he had talked to his daughter and his mother about recanting, something he had previously denied.

“A memo, recently discovered in the files from the District Attorney’s office, also details how the trial prosecutor worked behind the scenes with Sneed’s attorney during Mr. Glossip’s trial to feed Sneed information before he testified, in what appears to be an improper, yet successful, attempt to get Sneed to change his testimony on a key point of evidence.  This memo had been withheld from Mr. Glossip’s team, despite a duty to disclose it during the trial, until September 2022.”

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