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Gov. Mary Fallin issues stay of execution for Richard Glossip following alleged drug mix-up

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MCALESTER, Okla. – An Oklahoma inmate was just minutes away from death when Gov. Mary Fallin stepped in to bring his execution to a halt.

Richard Glossip was scheduled to be put to death at 3 p.m. on Wednesday for the murder of Barry Van Treese.

Glossip was convicted of Van Treese’s murder, though Glossip was not the one who took his life.

The man who bludgeoned Van Treese to death, Justin Sneed, testified that Glossip hired him for the murder.

Justin Sneed

Justin Sneed

The case was surrounded by controversy for an alleged lack of evidence for being based on the word of an admitted murderer.

Throughout trials and appeals, Glossip maintained his innocence.

"The dying part doesn't bother me. Everybody dies, but I want people to know I didn't kill this man [Barry Van Treese]. I didn't participate or plan or anything to do with this crime. I want people to know that it's not just for me that I'm speaking out. It's for other people on death row around this country who are innocent and are going to be executed for something they didn't do. It's not right that it's happening. We're in a country where that should never happen," Glossip told NewsChannel 4 in an earlier interview. "They offered me a life sentence at my second trial. I turned it down because I'm not going to stand there and admit to something that I didn't do. Even though my attorneys said I was an idiot for turning it down because I could end up back on death row. I prefer death row than to tell somebody I committed a crime I didn't do."

His execution was stayed three times prior to Wednesday by the courts to review new evidence.

In the days leading up to the scheduled execution, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied Glossip’s request for a stay.

On Tuesday, Glossip’s team made a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Richard Glossip

Richard Glossip

Just minutes before his execution was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, the Supreme Court denied those pleas for a stay.

According to the denial, Justice Steven Breyer was the one who was in favor of granting a stay.

For his last meal, Glossip asked for Pizza Hut, Long John Silvers and Wendy's.  There is a $25 limit on inmate's last meal requests.

NewsChannel 4’s Ali Meyer was one of five members of the media who was selected to view the execution from inside the prison.

Glossip had support from high-profile celebrities throughout the proceedings.

A representative for Pope Francis even sent Governor Mary Fallin a letter asking her to commute Glossip's sentence.

While many people were waiting for the execution to begin, dozens of others took to protesting the death penalty outside the governor's mansion.

Fallin released the following statement earlier this week regarding the case:

“The state of Oklahoma has gone to extraordinary lengths to guarantee that Richard Glossip is treated fairly and that the claims made by him and his attorneys are taken seriously. He has now had multiple trials, seventeen years of appeals, and three stays of his execution. Over and over again, courts have rejected his arguments and the information he has presented to support them. We saw that again today, with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirming the notion that Glossip received a fair trial.

As I have said throughout the process, the role of my office is to follow the law and ensure justice is done. If a state or federal court grants Glossip a new trial or decides to delay his execution, I will respect that decision. If that does not happen, his execution will go forward on September 30, which is the date set by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

As always, my heart goes out to the family of Barry Van Treese, whose suffering has been made worse by uncertainty and delay.”

In a shocking turn of events, Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay of execution for Glossip to address the lethal injection protocols.

She issued a 37 day stay of execution to address legal questions that were raised on Wednesday to address the state's lethal injection protocols.

Here is the statement that was released on Wednesday afternoon:

"Governor Mary Fallin has issued a 37 day stay of Richard Glossip's execution to address legal questions raised today about Oklahoma's execution protocols. The stay will give the Department of Corrections and its attorneys the opportunity to determine whether potassium acetate is compliant with the state's court-approved execution procedures.

"Last minute questions were raised today about Oklahoma's execution protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection," said Fallin. "After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of Corrections, I have issued a 37 day stay of execution while the state addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the protocols approved by federal courts."

The new execution date will be Friday, November 6.

"My sincerest sympathies go out to the Van Treese family, who has waited so long to see justice done," Fallin said.

 

"Through several phone calls and conversations with the attorney general's office, the governor's office, and out of due diligence, we have asked and the governor has granted a stay of execution to Richard Eugene Glossip until next month. This will allow us time to review the current drug protocols and answer any questions we may have about the drug protocol," said Robert Patton, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. "I have talked to the Van Treese family at length. My thoughts and prayers are with them at this time."

There were plenty of questions surrounding the reason for the stay. The Department of Corrections did not answer any questions related to the stay or the execution protocol.

According to the governor's release, a stay was issued related questions surrounding to the drug potassium acetate. However, that drug was not a part of the list, which was supposed to feature all of the medications that would be used during the execution, that was given to members of the media.

In fact, witnesses say it was a simple mix-up with the drugs.

Sister Helen Prejean told NewsChannel 4 that the department simply got the wrong drug.

Instead of getting potassium chloride, Prejean says that someone accidentally got potassium acetate.

"It's a food preservative. It also happens to be a Richard Glossip preservative because he's not dead. They messed it up. They got the wrong drugs," Sister Helen Prejean told NewsChannel 4 outside the prison in McAlester. "He's had these three close calls with death and he's still alive."

Glossip's attorney says that his client is just as confused as anyone.

"This process is just really wearing him down. It's truly a very difficult thing for him to take," said Don Knight, Glossip's attorney.

When asked about the potassium acetate, Knight said, "It looks like a mix-up. I mean, I don't know how these things happen. I don't know how people can mix this up but, you know, we're gonna find out and take it from there."

The Oklahoma Attorney General's office released a statement regarding the stay of execution, admitting that there was an issue with the drugs.

"Shortly before the scheduled execution, the Department of Corrections advised the attorney general's office that it did not have the specific drugs identified in the execution protocol. The attorney general advised the Department of Corrections and the governor that the litigated protocol, which had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, had to be followed. It is unclear why, and extremely frustrating to the attorney general, that the Department of Corrections did not have the correct drugs to carry out the execution. Our hearts break for the family of Barry Van Treese for having to endure yet another delay. However, the most sobering and important duty for the state is to carry out the punishment of death."

"Today, the state has, once again, demonstrated its incompetence," Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement. "That said, as much as this is evidence of the state's incompetence, we are grateful Oklahoma has stepped away from the error, avoiding another potentially botched execution."

Kiesel questions why it took officials nearly an hour after the execution time to come forward and say there were issues with the drugs.

This is the second time this month Glossip has escaped the death chamber.

"We are deeply relieved that Gov. Fallin has issued a stay of execution- which gives Richard Glossip and his legal team more time to prove his innocence. The fight to save Richard's life is far from over, and MoveOn members and our allies will continue to work tirelessly over the next 37 days to stop Richard's wrongful execution.

Once again, Richard has come within minutes of being executed for a crime the record in the case makes clear he did not commit. And now, concerns about the state's lethal drug combination gravely underscore the ethical and moral necessity to abolish the death penalty.

We will continue to fight to save Richard's life and for systemic reform to fix our broken criminal justice system," a statement from MoveOn said.

While Glossip's supporters were rejoicing the move, the victim's family is still waiting for justice to be served.

Barry Van Treese and his family

Barry Van Treese and his family

"I was stolen the opportunity to hold Barry's hand when he died, when we were old and gray together. I'm not giving him the satisfaction of me being there to watch him die," Donna Van Treese, the victim's wife, told NewsChannel 4 earlier this year.

Donna Van Treese says the crime left her a widow and her five young children fatherless.

"I believe that if the death penalty was a more frequently used method, it would in turn lessen heinous crimes simply because no on wants to die before their time," Daniel Van Treese, the victim's son, wrote in a message to NBC News. "If people feared the reproductions [sic] of their actions, they would presumably take different actions."

At this point, officials with the governor's office say the execution of Benjamin Cole that is scheduled next week has not been delayed.