OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday denied Richard Glossip’s challenges to his execution, about 48 hours before he is scheduled to die by lethal injection.
Glossip, 52, was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of murder for remuneration in the January 1997 death of his boss, Barry Van Treese, who owned the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. Glossip was the resident manager, while Justin Sneed, who confessed to beating Van Treese with a baseball bat inside one of the motel rooms, lived at the property in exchange for maintenance work.
Prosecutors said throughout the trial that Sneed was dependent on Glossip and that Glossip offered him thousands of dollars to carry out the killing because Glossip feared being terminated, as Van Treese discovered about $6,000 was missing from the books.
In the majority ruling by Judge David Lewis on Monday, the Court of Criminal Appeals wrote that Glossip “merely wants more time so he can develop evidence” similar to what his attorneys submitted in advance of his previously set Sept. 16 execution date.
“We find, therefore, an evidentiary hearing, discovery or further stay of execution is not warranted in this case,” the majority opinion states. The execution is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Two judges out of the five dissented in the decision, with Judge Clancy Smith saying she would have sent the case back to Oklahoma County for a hearing and issued a 60-day stay of execution because previous attorneys may have been unable to discover the new evidence. The other, Judge Arlene Johnson, called Glossip’s case “deeply flawed” and said he did not receive a fair trial.
Glossip’s legal team also challenged the two-week stay of execution granted by the court Sept. 16, saying state law dictates a new date must be 30 or 60 days after a stay is dissolved. The court denied the request to change the Wednesday execution date, saying the court issued Glossip a temporary stay and dissolved it in the same order by selecting a new date.
“Nothing in the statute prohibits this court from rescheduling the execution date at any time it deems necessary and prudent,” the majority decision states.
Smith and Johnson also dissented in that ruling.
The Court of Criminal Appeals issued an emergency stay of execution about 11:30 a.m. Sept. 16 after Glossip’s attorneys filed what they said was new evidence that points to Sneed acting alone in Van Treese’s death. The filing also references issues with medical examiner testimony regarding when Van Treese died of his injuries.
The evidence filed this month includes two affidavits from men who lived with or near Sneed in jail and Joseph Harp Correctional Center, where Sneed is serving a life without parole sentence in the killing, and allege that Sneed never mentioned anyone else was involved in the crime.
One of the affidavits, signed by Michael Scott, says he heard Sneed brag about sending Glossip “up the river” for the death. Another from Joseph Tapley, who served time in the county jail with Sneed, says Sneed knew about cash Van Treese had stashed in his car.
Sneed has maintained Glossip offered him money to kill Van Treese. The Court of Criminal Appeals wrote in 2007 that money found among Sneed’s and Glossip’s possessions was among the most compelling corroborative evidence tying Glossip to the crime because Sneed would not have known Van Treese kept large amounts of cash related to his business dealings with him unless someone told him.
No direct physical evidence linked Glossip to the crime scene, but prosecutors pointed out inconsistencies in his initial statements to police about his involvement in the crime. Glossip’s attorneys maintain he was convicted based on Sneed’s word, which they believe is unreliable.
The 2007 appeal record states Glossip lied to police about knowing when Van Treese died not to protect Sneed, but because he felt like he “was involved in it.”
“Justin Sneed is a proven liar, admitted polysubstance abuser, has a criminal history involving crimes of ‘deceit’ and has made statements while under the influence of methamphetamine,” said Don Knight, one of Glossip’s attorneys. “He is also an admitted murderer. By the state’s definition, he is ‘inherently suspect’ and cannot be believed.”
Last week, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Miller filed an objection to Glossip’s requests for a stay and hearing.
“Put simply, the ‘inherently suspect’ affidavit of an individual who has been repeatedly convicted of crimes involving deceit, describing alleged conversations that occurred almost 20 years ago while Mr. Sneed and Mr. Tapley may have been under the influence of methamphetamine, does not even come close to being clear and convincing evidence of Petitioner’s actual innocence,” she wrote, referencing Tapley’s claims that the two had acquired and consumed meth together while in custody.
Glossip also filed for a stay of his execution in the Western District of Oklahoma on Sept. 16, claiming pain caused by the sedative midazolam, which the state intends to use in his lethal injection, will violate the Eighth Amendment. His attorneys claimed they found pharmacies in Oklahoma that would supply pentobarbital, which they argue is more reliable.
The attorneys withdrew the federal court petition last week, saying they learned an alternative to midazolam wouldn’t be available by the time of Glossip’s Wednesday execution.
The nature of Glossip’s case, particularly the fact he did not kill Van Treese himself, has made his execution the subject of international attention. Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist, became Glossip’s spiritual adviser this year and has spoken publicly about her belief in his innocence with actress Susan Sarandon during the Aug. 31 broadcast of the “Dr. Phil” show.
Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer have also previously signed a letter calling for Gov. Mary Fallin to issue a stay of execution. Fallin denied that request Sept. 15.