OKALHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There are some new developments in one death row inmate’s quest for freedom. Richard Glossip was convicted in the 1997 murder of his boss, hotel owner Barry Van Treese. Glossip was accused of hiring Justin Sneed to beat Van Treese to death.
However, after an independent investigation spearheaded by a group of lawyers and Oklahoma lawmakers, a report has been released detailing their findings. The conclusion of the deep dive into the case is that “no reasonable jury would have convicted Richard Glossip.”
Lawmakers and the law firm are saying they found things like the ordered destruction of evidence and contaminated interrogations by detectives that “cast grave doubt as to the integrity of Glossip’s murder conviction and death sentence.”
“I personally believe that we might have an innocent man in on death row,” said state Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, during a news conference on the report Wednesday afternoon.
After 3,000 hours of looking into the case by reading hundreds of thousands of pages and interviewing witnesses, including Glossip himself, 30 attorneys with the law firm Reed Smith, specializing in Justice for Prisoners, reached a near 350-page report claiming proof of his innocence.
“We need to right this wrong by allowing this new evidence to be heard in criminal appeals court,” McDugle said.
The firm’s findings said 19-year-old Justin Sneed, described as a drug addict with a criminal history, killed Barry Van Treese and later claimed Glossip hired him to do it. Stan Perry with Reed Smith said Sneeds interview with detectives is an example of contaminated interrogations.
“In the first 20 minutes when they interviewed Mr. Sneed, they mentioned Glossip’s name six times and they told him, we know he’s behind it,” Perry said.
They said other issues include the handling of the crime scene by not logging it or providing it during trial. They added that they have proof the district attorney ordered the destruction of evidence.
“A box containing ten items, duct tape, shower curtain, financial records was destroyed,” Perry said. “That’s inexcusable.”
The report also claims the state only relied on the testimony of Sneed to tie Glossip to the murder. Also at issue, years later, the group says a member of the prosecuting team at the time was on the pardon and parole board during Glossip’s hearing.
“She did not recuse herself from that board,” Perry said. “In fact, she led a trial like cross-examination against Mr. Glossip.”
With executions set to resume in Oklahoma, Glossip is high on the list to get a date set.
“If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty simply because the process is not pure,” McDugle said.
Now what’s next? Glossip has exhausted his appeals, but McDugal urged Attorney General John O’Connor to listen to one more appeal in light of the findings. The attorney general’s office said they will not be releasing a statement at this time. We reached out to the Van Treese family for comment. We have not heard back.
The attorney for Richard Glossip also released a statement that can be read in full below:
“The Reed Smith report presents the clearest evidence yet of Richard Glossip’s innocence. It is now undeniable that a botched and sloppy police investigation, reckless handling of evidence by the prosecution, and incompetent defense attorneys put an innocent man on death row. I believe it would be a disservice to the people of Oklahoma and our justice system to execute one of Oklahoma’s citizens on such flimsy grounds. In the coming days, Mr. Glossip’s defense team will file a request for a hearing with the Oklahoma Court of Appeals so this new evidence of innocence can be examined in a court of law. Based on the scope of this in-depth and independent investigation, and its clear findings, we ask Attorney General John M. O’Connor to refrain from setting an execution date until these new facts get a fair hearing, and to join us in seeking justice for Richard Glossip. 25 years on death row for a crime we all now know he did not commit, is a terrible injustice. Thankfully, there is still time to make it right.”Don Knight, attorney for Richard Glossip