Oklahoma Pardon & Parole Board denies Glossip clemency


Not even the unprecedented presence of Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who attended the hearing to advocate for clemency for Richard Glossip, was enough to convince the Oklahoma Pardon & Parole Board to grant Richard Glossip clemency on Wednesday. The vote was 2-2, with one abstention.

The vote came after a three-hour long hearing, during which independent investigators, Glossip’s attorneys, and Drummond asked the board to grant clemency to Glossip, who was sentenced to death in 1998, convicted of engineering the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of an Oklahoma City motel where Glossip worked. The actual killer, Justin Sneed, serving a life without parole sentence, implicated Glossip as the crime’s mastermind. Glossip has always maintained his innocence. He has come close to being executed three times and has had nine execution dates scheduled since his conviction. In his address to the board, Glossip said, “I absolutely did not cause Justin Sneed to commit any crime against Mr. Van Treese, let alone to murder him,” CNN reported.

Early this month, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond announced that After thorough and serious deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot stand behind the murder conviction and death sentence of Richard Glossip” and asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals “to vacate Glossip’s conviction” and grant him a new trial.

He also asked that Glossip’s May 18 execution date be postponed until August 2024, which, had it been granted, would have been his ninth execution date since he was sentenced to death in 1998.

But to the surprise of many, including state legislators, many of whom are Republican death penalty supporters, a special counsel appointed by  Drummond to review his case, a law firm hired to conduct an innocence investigation, journalists, legal analysts, and Glossip’s lawyers, the CCA denied the appeal last week.

“This Court has thoroughly examined Glossip’s case from the initial direct appeal to this date. We have examined the trial transcripts, briefs, and every allegation Glossip has made since his conviction. Glossip has exhausted every avenue and we have found no legal or factual ground which would require relief in this case. . . . he is not entitled to a stay of execution.” The decision was unanimous. 

In an interview with CNN, Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, said that he talked with Glossip after the ruling and “That was about as low a point as I’ve seen him, and this is his ninth execution date. This is tough. He’s been down this road far too many times. No one should have to endure that.”

Drummond filed the motion three days after he received a report from the special counsel he appointed in January to review Glossip’s case. The counsel, former prosecutor Rex Duncan, was tasked with examining Glossip’s prosecution, conviction, sentencing, and post-conviction appeals.

“In my view,, the State must vacate Glossip’s conviction due to its decades-long failure to disclose what I believe is Brady material, correct what I believe was false trial testimony of its star witness, and what I believe was a violation of the Court-ordered Rule of Sequestration of witnesses [requires witnesses to be excluded so they can’t hear the testimony of other witnesses]. In my view, this case is also permeated by failures to secure, safeguard, and maintain evidence in a capital murder case,” Duncan wrote.

And, despite his belief that “Glossip is not actually innocent of criminal culpability in this case,” Drummond stated that “the numerous trial and appellate defects throughout the history of this case can be remedied only by remand for a new trial.” 

But, the CCA didn’t even try to pretend it was concerned with the issue of innocence, and indicated its impatience with the fact that “he is now before this Court with his fifth application for post-conviction relief, a motion for evidentiary hearing, and a motion for discovery, as well as a joint motion for a stay of execution,” and insisted it had “found no credible claims to prevent the carrying out of Glossip’s sentence on the scheduled date.”

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