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SCOTUS Orders Last-Minute Stay of Execution for Oklahoma Death Row Prisoner Richard Glossip

In a surprising turn of events, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) granted a stay of execution to condemned Oklahoma prisoner Richard Glossip on May 5, 2023. The decision marks the ninth time Glossip, 60, has come close to facing the death penalty for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of a motel where Glossip worked as a manager. He has steadfastly protested his innocence, and mounting evidence of his possible wrongful conviction has raised doubts about his guilt.

In its decision, SCOTUS also granted an extraordinary plea made by state Attorney General Gentner Drummond (R) after the state Pardon and Parole Board (PPB) voted to deny Glossip clemency on April 26, 2023 – even though Drummond had argued for it. Citing a “litany of errors” at Glossip’s trial, Drummond said executing him would be “an excessive sentence for the man who did not commit this violent act when the man who did will remain housed at the taxpayer’s expense for the rest of his life.”

Before he was turned down by PPB, Drummond also pleaded for Glossip to the state Court of Criminal Appeals. However, the court denied that appeal on April 20, 2023. When PPB’s denial followed soon thereafter, Glossip’s scheduled execution was greenlighted on May 18, 2023.

The case against Glossip relied heavily on testimony from Justin Sneed, a 19-year-old former handyman at the motel who admitted to the murder but said Glossip orchestrated the crime. Based on Sneed’s testimony, Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death. Sneed received a life sentence in exchange for his cooperation.

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said he would “follow the law” and murder Glossip, despite previously suppressed evidence that changed Drummond’s mind, indicating
Sneed wanted to recant his testimony and that prosecutors knew parts of it were false. Witnesses who were previously ignored also came forward to say Sneed was capable of committing the crime on his own in a botched robbery attempt.

Accompanied by another request from the attorney general, Glossip’s legal team filed a second petition to stay his execution
with SCOTUS – the high court had earlier refused a challenge to the drug protocol that would be used to kill him. [See: PLN, Feb. 2016, p.20.] The decision to grant the stay is only temporary, while justices consider whether to take up the case.
See: Glossip v. Oklahoma, U.S., Application
No. 22-A-941 (2023).

Additional sources: AP News, KTUL, The Intercept, New York Times