Supreme Court temporarily halts impending Richard Glossip execution amid potential appeal

Supreme Court temporarily halts impending Richard Glossip execution amid potential appeal

The US Supreme Court on Friday agreed to temporarily stay the execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, scheduled for 18 May, as it considers taking the man’s appeal.

Glossip, convicted of the 1997 murder-for-hire of motel owner Barry Van Treese, has long maintained his innocence.

At this stage, the inmate’s last chance of a reprieve will likely come from a Supreme Court decision or a pardon from Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

In recent years, numerous officials of both parties in Oklahoma, including the state’s Republican attorney general Gentner Drummond, have urged that Glossip get a new trial, amid major questions about the credibility of the state’s key witness and other evidentiary issues.

On 26 April, Oklahoma’s state parole board denied a clemency request from Glossip, which was supported by Attorney General Drummond.

Earlier that month, a state appeals court rejected a request from Glossip for a new trial.

“This case has been thoroughly investigated and reviewed in numerous appeals,” the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals wrote in its ruling.

Critics argue that the evidence that Glossip orchestrated a murder-for-hire scheme against Van Treese is shaky at best.

Police’s main point of evidence is the testimony of Justin Sneed, a then-19-year-old with a history of past criminal offences and drug use who alleged Glossip paid him to beat Van Treese to death.

Subsequent evidence showed Sneed, who offered conflicting versions of what happened each time he was interviewed, was the subject of a highly coercive police interrogation before ultimately cutting a deal with officials and avoiding a death sentence.

Sneed, who is now serving life in prison, has allegedly confessed to carrying out the murder of his own volition on the inside, according to a signed affidavit from a fellow inmate.

At various points during his incarceration, Sneed also communicated with his lawyers that he was considering recanting his testimony, writing at one point, “Do I have the choice of recanting at any time during my life?” and sending another message describing his testimony as “a mistake.”

Glossip’s attorneys were not aware of these potential admissions of doubt until decades after his original conviction.

“Considering everything I know about this case, I do not believe that justice is served by executing a man based on the testimony of a compromised witness,” the Oklahoma attorney general said in April after reviewing the case.

In 2022, law firm Reed Smith reinvestigated the case at the request of state lawmakers. A team of 30 attorneys working through 12,000 documents concluded the case against Glossip was full of holes.

“Our conclusion is that no reasonable juror, hearing the complete record, and the uncovered facts ... would have convicted Richard Glossip of capital murder,” Reed Smith attorney Stan Perry said in June.

Governor Stitt has granted clemency to other high-profile death row residents, such as converting the death sentence of Julius Jones into life in prison in 2021, following a nationwide activist movement.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.