OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of five Republican lawmakers announced a law firm from Houston is investigating the case of death-row inmate Richard Glossip.
“For me, I think the bar for death row needs to be a high bar,” said Rep. Kevin McDugle of Broken Arrow.
“If the guy is guilty, then by all means, we’ll say execute,” said Rep. Justin Humphrey of Lane.
Oklahoma lawmakers McDugle, Humphrey, Rep. Garry Mize, Sen. David Bullard and Sen. Blake Stephens are asking a Texas law firm to examine the 1997 beating death of Barry Van Treese, the owner of metro motel Best Budget Inn.
Glossip and Justin Sneed were both convicted in the case. While Sneed confessed to hitting Van Treese with a bat, he was given a life sentence in return for his testimony against Glossip.
“Justin Sneed pointed a finger at Richard Glossip and that’s the biggest piece of evidence that they’ve got,” said McDugle. “Richard Glossip had three last meals. If he moves forward with this execution, this will be his fourth.”
Glossip escaped the death penalty in 2015, after a botched execution and drug mix-up.
Fast forward to June 2021, when a group of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle wrote to Governor Kevin Stitt to say new evidence and witnesses prove Glossip’s innocence and to ask for objective eyes on the case. Now, those eyes are coming from Houston law firm Reed Smith for free.
“It’s our hope that the results of the investigation, whatever results those are, allow closure for all sides,” said Stan Perry, a partner with the firm.
The team has already gone full-throttle with the case, reaching out to witnesses, scanning records and reports, and pouring through court transcripts.
“And these transcripts are huge. You know, they would stack up on the floor,” said Perry.
The group of lawmakers said they’re not against capitol punishment, but they feel Oklahoma got this conviction wrong.
“If the evidence comes back and he’s guilty, then he needs to be put to death. But if the evidence comes back that he’s not guilty, we need to let him out. And I personally feel like it’s going to come back that he’s not guilty,” said McDugle.
KFOR reached out to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor. His office provided us with the following statement:
“Richard Glossip’s case was tried twice because Glossip argued he did not have competent defense counsel in the first trial. The juries in both trials found that Glossip hired Justin Sneed to kill Barry Van Treese. Both juries convicted Glossip of first-degree murder and recommended the death penalty.
Mr. Van Treese was murdered on January 7, 1997. Glossip has had 24 years of appeals. It is time for justice to be served for Mr. Van Treese’s family and the people of Oklahoma.
The defense claimed today that there is no mechanism to have a claim of actual innocence heard by the courts. However, in Slaughter v. State, a 2005 case, the Court of Criminal Appeals specifically said, “We fully recognize innocence claims are the Post-Conviction Procedure Act’s foundation.” The Court reaffirmed this statement in an opinion in 2021. If Glossip’s defense has new evidence, they need to be transparent and provide that to the Court of Criminal Appeals for determination of actual innocence, as that is the appropriate mechanism to have the claim heard.”John O’Connor, Oklahoma Attorney General
No execution date has been set for Glossip.
The law firm said they hope to have the report wrapped up in April.