WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday blocked Oklahoma from executing death row inmate Richard Glossip after the state’s attorney general said the case deserved reexamination.
Glossip had been scheduled to be put to death on May 18 despite statements by new Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond that Glossip did not receive a fair trial.
The high court put the execution on hold while it reviews the case. Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the case, presumably because he dealt with it earlier as an appeals court judge.
“We are very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for doing the right thing in stopping Richard Glossip’s unlawful execution. There is nothing more harrowing than the thought of executing a man who the State now admits has never received a fair trial. Thankfully, for the time being, Mr. Glossip is out of peril. Our hope is that the Court will reverse the decision of the OCCA and vacate Mr. Glossip’s conviction once and for all,” said Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight. “We are deeply thankful to the many courageous people in Oklahoma, especially Attorney General Gentner Drummond, Reps McDugle and Humphrey, and the many legislators in Oklahoma who have taken a deeper look at Mr. Glossip’s case and stood in opposition to the execution of this innocent man.”
“I am very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for their decision to grant a stay of execution. I will continue working to ensure justice prevails in this important case,” said AG Drummond.
On Thursday, Oklahoma Representatives and faith leaders called on the Governor to issue a stay of execution. European Union Ambassador to the US Stavros Lambrinidis and Swedish Ambassador to the US Karin Olofsdotter also sent a letter to Gov. Stitt to stay Glossip’s execution.
On Tuesday, Glossip’s attorney asked the Oklahoma County District Court to throw out that hearing and stop his execution.
The court filing says the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board failed to seat an impartial replacement member to ensure that Glossip had a trial before a five-member board, which he says is required by the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The State of Oklahoma has already agreed that Richard Glossip was denied a fair trial and, to add further insult to his constitutional rights, he has now been denied a fair clemency hearing,” said his attorney, Don Knight. “The Board’s split decision is precisely the outcome this lawsuit sought to avoid, and it underscores the grave injustice of allowing Rich’s execution to proceed without a proper clemency hearing before a fully constituted Board.”
On Monday, AG Drummond asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution, saying there were enough problems with Glossip’s conviction that he deserves a new trial.
Specifically, Drummond said the key witness against Glossip lied on the stand about his psychiatric condition and his reason for taking the mood-stabilizing drug lithium.
Richard Glossip has been on death row for 25 years for the murder of Barry Van Treese.
The case goes back to 1997, when Glossip and Justin Sneed were convicted of killing Glossip’s boss and owner of the Best Budget Inn, Barry Van Treese.
Although Sneed confessed to beating and killing Van Treese with a bat, Sneed testified that Glossip hired him to kill Van Treese.
In exchange for his testimony, Sneed was given a life sentence. Glossip was sentenced to death.
Over the years, Glossip has had his execution date delayed at least seven times.
Drummond, a Republican, supported a high-court reprieve for Glossip, telling the justices, “Glossip’s trial was unfair and unreliable.”
But Drummond also has said he does not believe Glossip is innocent of the murder-for-hire killing of Glossip’s former boss, Barry Van Treese, in 1997.
Two investigations have revealed problems with the prosecution’s case against Glossip.
Drummond said Sneed lied on the stand about his psychiatric condition and his reason for taking the mood-stabilizing drug lithium.
Other problems include the destruction of evidence, Drummond said.
Glossip’s case has been to the Supreme Court before. He was given an earlier reprieve in 2015, although the court later ruled 5-4 against him in a case involving the drugs used in lethal executions.