Death Row Appeal to SCOTUS Charges OKLA Prosecution ‘Knowingly Presented’ False Evidence from Key Witness

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By The Vanguard Staff

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Lawyers for death row prisoner Richard Glossip in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court this week charged the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals did not address the defense complaint prosecutors “knowingly presented” false testimony a key witness.

The defense also, according to a statement, “condemned…the state court’s ‘result-driven’ state law ruling on the grounds that it defied the ‘physical laws of time and space’ because it required ‘Glossip to have raised a claim decades before he learned the basis for it.’”

Republican Attorney General of Oklahoma Gentner Drummond filed the State’s brief in support of Glossip’s cert petition, stating, “After careful consideration – including a thorough review by an independent counsel – the State came to the conclusion that …ensuring that justice is done in this case requires a retrial.” 

The defense notes The Innocence Project “and six legal scholars who focus on legal ethics and the professional responsibility of trial lawyers and prosecutors filed separate friend-of-the-court briefs in support of  Mr. Glossip.”

Glossip’s case “implicates many of the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction—including an acknowledgment by the State itself that it committed prosecutorial misconduct that renders Richard Glossip’s capital conviction fundamentally unreliable.”

Authored by Seth Waxman, the former U.S. Solicitor General appointed by William J. Clinton, the petition also states, “Over more than 30 years of experience, the Innocence Project has found that prosecutorial doubt about guilt or the reliability of a conviction is a substantial indicator of a wrongful conviction. 

“And when, as here, 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,’ it is virtually unthinkable that the conviction could be allowed to stand.

“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,” the ethicists’ brief urges.

Sixty-two Oklahoma legislators, including at least 45 pro-death penalty Republican lawmakers, back Glossip’s appeal. The defense added two independent investigations “found multiple errors that cast grave doubts on the reliability of Mr. Glossip’s conviction.”

The State of Oklahoma said it will not defend Glossip’s conviction and death sentence, and is represented by Paul Clement, the former U.S. Solicitor General appointed by George W. Bush.

The Supreme Court granted a stay of execution May 5 for Glossip, who has been on death row for 25 years and claims another man, Justin Sneed, committed the murder, and “lied on the stand at key points in the trial.”

Glossip filed a new petition for writ of certiorari May 4 asking the 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.”

And OK AG Drummond “confessed error and agreed that Mr. Glossip did not receive a fair trial, and that his conviction must be reversed,” but the parole board “refused to stop the execution of an innocent man who never had a fair trial.”  

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

The 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.”

The filing adds, “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.” (Petition at p. 1.)

In January, the state’s review of Glossip’s case led AG Drummond to state, “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 OCCA to set aside Mr. Glossip’s conviction and remand the case to the district court. That request was denied by the OCCA on April 20.

The review, explains Glossip’s lawyers, “followed an independent investigation commissioned by an ad hoc group of Republican Oklahoma state legislators by the international law firm Reed Smith, which found that if presented with all the evidence now available, no reasonable juror would find Mr. Glossip guilty of murder for hire.”
Glossip’s defense noted Glossip—in addition to the May 4 petition for writ of certiorari—has another petition before SCOTUS (Glossip v. Oklahoma, filed in January 2023) challenging Oklahoma’s “treatment of his claims that the State illegally withheld evidence that would have bolstered his claims of innocence.”

The defense also said in a statement, “An unusual group of amici filed briefs in support of relief for Mr. Glossip, including an Oklahoma legislator, who is a self-described death penalty proponent, as well as a diverse group of prosecutors,” including “a sitting member of the U.S. Congress as well as current and former elected District Attorneys, an Attorney General, line prosecutors, and, in one instance, the author of a state’s death penalty statute.”

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