Lawmaker: Report shows Oklahoma death row inmate's innocence

A Republican Oklahoma state representative who is a self-described death-penalty supporter said a report by a Houston law firm into the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip proves his innocence

Oklahoma Execution Glossip
Oklahoma Execution Glossip

A Republican Oklahoma state representative who is a self-described death-penalty supporter on Wednesday said a report by a Houston law firm into the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip proves Glossip's innocence.

“We've got an individual sitting on death row that's been there 25 years and I believe he's totally innocent,” said Rep. Kevin McDugle.

McDugle called for a new appeals court hearing for Glossip based on the investigation by Houston law firm Reed Smith, which produced the report at no charge to the state.

Glossip's attorney, Don Knight, said the report shows Glossip's innocence.

“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,” Knight said in a statement.

The firm reported lost or destroyed evidence, and a detective in the case who was biased against Glossip and improperly asked leading questions to co-defendant Justin Sneed to implicate Glossip in the slaying of motel owner Barry Van Treese, said Reed Smith attorney Stan Perry.

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

The evidence included financial records that were destroyed in late 1999 or early 2000, prior to Glossip's retrial after his first conviction and death sentence were overturned. The records could have disproved the prosecution's theory that Glossip wanted Van Treese killed to hide Glossip's alleged embezzlement from the motel, where he was manager, according to the report.

“This loss or destruction of evidence appears to be so critical to the defense as to cast serious doubt as to the fundamental fairness of the criminal trial against Glossip,” the report stated.

“This most likely (case) was a solitary robbery committed by Sneed who pocketed whatever money he took,” estimated at about $2,800, from Van Treese to fuel a drug addiction, according to the report.

Sneed, the motel handyman, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in 1997 in a room at the Oklahoma City motel owned by Van Treese. Sneed testified that he killed Van Treese, but only after Glossip, the motel manager, promised to pay him $10,000 to commit the crime.

The report also cited missing security video from a nearby convenience store allegedly showing a man leaving the motel shortly after the murder.

The investigation was sought by a group of 34 Oklahoma state lawmakers, including 28 Republicans, led by McDugle.

“I do believe in the death penalty," McDugle said, but safeguards are needed to protect the innocent.

"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.

Glossip, 59, who has maintained his innocence, was twice convicted and sentenced to die for the killing of Van Treese.

Glossip is one of 25 death row inmates for whom state Attorney General John O’Connor has asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to set an execution date.

Knight, Glossip's attorney, said O'Connor should not seek an execution date in light of the report.

Glossip, who is second on the list submitted by O'Connor for execution dates, was hours from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug.

It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used previously to execute an inmate, and executions in the state were put on hold.

Executions in Oklahoma resumed in October with John Grant, who convulsed on the gurney and vomited before being declared dead.

Since then, three more executions were carried out without noticeable complications, most recently inmate Gilbert Ray Postelle, who was put to death Feb. 17.

Glossip was the lead plaintiff in a failed federal lawsuit that unsuccessfully challenged Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection protocol as unconstitutional. He also, in March, married anti-death penalty advocate Lea Rodger.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who took office after Glossip’s second trial ended with a second death sentence, said Wednesday that he was still reviewing the report and declined comment.

Prater has previously said he’s reviewed trial transcripts, boxes of evidence and videotaped police interviews, and remains convinced of Glossip’s guilt. Prater has said he would retry Glossip for first-degree murder and again seek the death penalty.

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