The Latest: Branson Adds Voice to Execution Opposition

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip asks the Supreme Court to stay his execution again.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The latest on the scheduled execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, who was convicted of ordering the 1997 beating death of his boss but claims he was framed by the actual killer (all times are local): British billionaire Richard Branson took out a full-page ad in The Oklahoman newspaper urging the state to stop the planned execution of an inmate who argues he’s innocent. The case of Glossip, 52, is the latest to draw national attention after a series of botched lethal injections put the death penalty under increased scrutiny.

If Glossip is killed, it would be the first execution in Oklahoma since the nation’s highest court upheld the state’s three-drug lethal injection formula. The seemingly thin evidence that led to Glossip’s conviction has also drawn the attention of celebrities like Susan Sarandon, George Takei and former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer. With a dearth of physical evidence, Glossip was convicted primarily on testimony given by Justin Sneed, 38, who was given a life sentence in exchange for his confession that Glossip hired him to beat Van Treese to death. In January, his execution was called off after the Supreme Court said it would consider the case, while another attempt this month was stopped by a state court so it could hear his appeal. Just hours before Glossip was originally scheduled to be executed on Sept. 16, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted a two-week reprieve to review his claims of new evidence in the case, including another inmate’s assertion that he overheard Sneed admit to framing Glossip.

An argument filed to an Oklahoma appeals court included a signed affidavit from a convict in Sneed’s prison claiming that Sneed had been “bragging about how Glossip took the fall” for Van Treese’s murder, Sister Helen Prejean, Glossip’s spiritual adviser, told Al Jazeera ahead of his original execution date earlier this month. But in a 3-2 decision earlier this week, the same court denied Glossip’s request for an evidentiary hearing and emergency stay of execution, paving the way for his execution to proceed.

Glossip has maintained his innocence, and his attorneys contend prosecutors leaned too heavily on Sneed’s testimony, which is the only concrete evidence linking Glossip to the murder. “We know Mr. Over and over again, courts have rejected his arguments and the information he has presented to support them.” “If they kill Richard today, or if they don’t, the landscape has changed, because it will be an excellent example of how you can kill an innocent man. Oklahoma first used midazolam last year in the execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, moaned and clenched his teeth for several minutes before prison officials tried to halt the process. Some states switched to midazolam in recent years after foreign pharmaceutical companies began restricting access to pentobarbital, which was often used in lethal injection cocktails in the U.S.

Glossip was the lead plaintiff in a separate case in which his attorneys argued the sedative midazolam did not adequately render an inmate unconscious before the second and third drugs were administered. In 1997, Van Treese was fatally beaten with a baseball bat, and Glossip — who worked for Van Treese — was found guilty of paying another motel worker to kill him. Glossip’s Supreme Court challenge ultimately failed in late June, when the high court ruled 5 to 4 that Oklahoma and other death penalty states could use the drug. But two of the court’s liberal justices also noted they would be open to a legal challenge to the death penalty’s constitutionality in the future, meaning Glossip may have opened the door for a separate landmark court case. In response to Glossip’s Supreme Court appeal filed Tuesday, the office of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, responded Wednesday by saying the new evidence “does not offer persuasive evidence of [Glossip’s] actual innocence” and asking the justices to deny the request.

When the appeals court rejected Glossip’s claims and arguments by a 3 to 2 margin, it said his conviction was “not based solely on the testimony of a codefendant” and added that it believed Sneed’s testimony “was sufficiently corroborated for a conviction,” according to an opinion from Judge David Lewis. Glossip’s attorneys pointed to the split nature of the appeals court’s decision in arguing that a man should not be put to death when two judges felt the execution should be delayed. In a letter this week to Fallin, Knight and other attorneys for Glossip asked her to grant a 60-day stay so that they could present the case to a parole board. “Governor Fallin, this is the wrong man, and the wrong case to carry out an execution,” they wrote in the letter Tuesday. We know from the outpouring of support that we have seen and from the massive publicity that this case has generated, that the entire world is now watching,” the attorneys wrote. “They have passed their verdict in this case and that verdict is not guilty. While his new Supreme Court challenges focus on the details of his conviction and requests for a new hearing, Glossip’s name was on the lethal injection case considered by the justices earlier this year.

He and two other Oklahoma inmates had challenged that state’s lethal injection protocol, questioning the use of the drug midazolam in executions, a sedative that was used in three problematic executions last year. After the Lockett execution, Oklahoma postponed all executions for months while it investigated what happened and tinkered with its execution protocol. Glossip’s execution was scheduled for Sept. 16, while the other two inmates who joined him in questioning Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedure are set to die in the coming weeks.

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