OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate are making a last-minute effort to spare their client’s life just hours before his scheduled execution, arguing they have new evidence to support his claim that he was framed.
Richard Eugene Glossip’s attorneys asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals late Tuesday to stop his lethal injection, saying they uncovered new details in the case, including a signed affidavit from an inmate who served time with Justin Sneed, who also was convicted of the killing and is serving a life sentence.
“We’re asking for a stay of execution to give the court more time to review this new evidence, which we think casts grave doubt on Richard’s guilt,” said Mark Henricksen, one of Glossip’s attorneys.
Glossip, 52, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday afternoon at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was convicted of ordering the 1997 beating death of Barry Van Treese, who owned the motel where Glossip worked.
Sneed was the prosecution’s key witness and testified that Glossip masterminded the killing because he was afraid Van Treese was about to fire him for embezzling money and poorly managing the motel.
Sneed was sentenced to life in prison in exchange for his testimony. A fellow inmate, Michael Scott, said in an affidavit that he heard Sneed say “he set Richard Glossip up, and that Richard Glossip didn’t do anything.”
Glossip maintained his innocence Tuesday in a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press and said he remains optimistic his lethal injection will be halted. “They’ll never take that from me,” Glossip said. “I’ll hope for the best. I won’t let it bring me down. If you’ve got to go out… you don’t want to be bitter and angry about it.”
Glossip’s case has drawn attention from death penalty opponents, and his family and supporters rallied Tuesday at the Oklahoma Capitol. They want Republican Gov. Mary Fallin to issue a 60-day stay to give Glossip’s attorneys more time to investigate new leads. But the governor said in a statement Wednesday that she remains convinced of Glossip’s guilt, and “after carefully reviewing the facts of this case multiple times” has no plans to issue a stay.
Among his supporters is Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, who played a nun in the movie “Dead Man Walking.” The woman Sarandon portrayed, anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean, serves as Glossip’s spiritual adviser and plans to attend his execution Wednesday.
Glossip’s execution is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Oklahoma prison officials are following a new execution protocol following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the state’s three-drug formula.
Under the protocol, Glossip’s telephone and visitation privileges were terminated at 11 p.m. Tuesday ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s scheduled execution. He is still allowed to speak with his attorneys, who have filed a last-minute request to stop the execution.
The protocol maintains that Glossip will be moved to a special cell as he awaits execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He is allowed to have a pen and paper, religious items, a book or magazine, and toiletries including soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a comb.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins says Glossip received a special last meal on Tuesday, but that he’ll have his normal breakfast and lunch Wednesday. Watkins says Glossip’s last meal was chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and a dinner roll from Chili’s; two orders of fish and chips from Long John Silver’s; and a strawberry malt and Baconator cheeseburger from Wendy’s.