Innocence Project & Ethics Experts File Briefs Supporting OK Death Row Incarcerated Richard Glossip’s Innocence Case

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By The Vanguard Staff

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Separate friend-of-the-court briefs were filed this week by the Innocence Project and six legal scholars—they focus on legal ethics and the professional responsibility of trial lawyers and prosecutors—in support of Richard Glossip, a death row inmate here for 25 years.

Glossip’s defense team also revealed the OK “Attorney General, following a lengthy investigation, concluded he should be given a new trial. It is undisputed that another man, Justin Sneed, committed the murder for which Mr. Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death and that Sneed lied on the stand at key points in the trial.”

Despite the legal activity and support, the defense commented, the AG’s admission is a “rare confession of error by a state’s chief law enforcement officer and the disturbing possibility that, without intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, Oklahoma may barrel ahead and execute an innocent man.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution May 5 for Glossip, which was supported by the Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond.

The defense noted Drummond has “confessed error in the case, agrees that Mr. Glossip did not receive a fair trial, and no longer seeks to defend his conviction and death sentence. The State of Oklahoma, represented by Paul Clement, the former U.S. Solicitor General appointed by George W. Bush, is expected to file a brief in July in support of reversing the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Mr. Glossip’s case.”

The Innocence Project brief, authored by Seth Waxman, the former U.S. Solicitor General appointed by William J. Clinton, plainly states the Glossip case “implicates many of the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction—including an acknowledgement by the State itself that it committed prosecutorial misconduct that renders Richard Glossip’s capital conviction fundamentally unreliable.” 

The pleading adds when “the State expresses not merely doubt, but a firm conviction that a capital conviction was ‘obtained with the benefit of material misstatements to the jury by the State’s key witness,’ (as stated by the OK AG), it is virtually unthinkable that the conviction could be allowed to stand.”

And, the ethicists’ brief urges, according to the defense, “This Court should grant certiorari and reverse the state court’s decision to make it clear that the integrity and fairness of criminal proceedings unequivocally require prosecutors to rectify false testimony that is relevant to any issue the jury will decide.”  

 Over last weekend, Glossip’s legal team filed a new petition for writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to “accept what the State’s chief law enforcement officer recognizes: that Mr. Glossip’s conviction is a grave miscarriage of justice, and to execute him would be an unthinkable, irreversible travesty.” 

According to the SCOTUS pleading, Glossip argues “due process of law requires reversal because his capital conviction is so infected with errors, the State no longer seeks to defend it. Before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA), AG Drummond confessed error and agreed that Mr. Glossip did not receive a fair trial, and that his conviction must be reversed.”

But, the brief added, “the OCCA has refused to stop the execution of an innocent man who never had a fair trial.” 

The defense has steadfastly maintained that the “only evidence linking Mr. Glossip to the murder was testimony from the undisputed killer, Justin Sneed. Sneed only claimed Mr. Glossip hired him to do the crime after detectives suggested Mr. Glossip’s name to him six times, informing Sneed that Mr. Glossip was ‘putting it on [Sneed] the worst’ and suggesting his cooperation would result in leniency. “

Glossip’s defense notes the death row incarcerated man has received support from 62 Oklahoma legislators, including at least 45 death penalty supporting Republican lawmakers. Amici filed briefs in support of relief for Glossip, including one from a Oklahoma legislator, a self-described death penalty proponent, as well as a diverse group of prosecutors, including a current member of the U.S. Congress, current and former elected District Attorneys, an Attorney General, line prosecutors, and the author of a state’s death penalty statute.

Glossip’s petition argues the “State’s suppression of Sneed’s admission that he was under the care of a psychiatrist and the failure to correct Sneed’s false testimony about that care and his diagnosis was a due process violation under Brady v. Maryland, which requires the prosecution to turn over evidence that might exonerate the defendant to the defense.

“Even at this late stage of his case, the State has only recently disclosed evidence showing it knew its critical witness, Justin Sneed, was lying and yet did not correct the record for the jury. The State agrees this failure, and the cumulative effect of the other errors in this case, require a new trial before Mr. Glossip can be punished at all, let alone put to death.”  

Oklahoma AG Drummond ordered a comprehensive review of Glossip’s murder conviction and death sentence following an independent investigation by the international law firm Reed Smith, which, said the defense, “found that if 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 said, “After thorough and serious deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot stand behind the murder conviction and death sentence of Richard Glossip.”

Although, noted the defense, the AG asked the OCCA to set aside Glossip’s conviction and remand the case to the district court, the request was denied by the OCCA April 20.

In addition to the May 4 petition for writ of certiorari, Glossip has another petition, Glossip v. Oklahoma, filed in January 2023, pending at the Supreme Court and which the Court has relisted numerous times, said the defense.

The petition “challenges Oklahoma’s treatment of his claims that the State illegally withheld evidence that would have bolstered his claims of innocence. Among other things, Oklahoma has used a standard that makes such claims all but impossible to prevail on if, as in his case, the key witness’s credibility was attacked at trial.”

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