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Oklahoma Death Row inmate may live to see another trial

Richard Glossip was set to die last week in Oklahoma, but his execution was pushed back – for the fourth time – last month.

Glossip’s lawyers have filed a clemency petition with support from 62 Oklahoma state representatives for a new evidentiary hearing in his murder case and say they have new evidence for the court of appeals to consider while they review the petition.

“If the state wants to dispute any of this, we’d welcome that. We’d welcome the hearing. We’re not asking anyone to let Richard Glossip go. We’re just saying, give us that chance. Give us that hearing,” Don Knight, Glossip’s attorney, said during a Sept. 22 press conference.

Glossip, 59, was convicted in the 1997 murder-for-hire of his boss, and has spent 25 years in prison but still maintains his innocence. His execution had been delayed three times previously, and his most recent death date, which had been scheduled for Thursday, was pushed back until January. Knight is pointing to evidence uncovered in an independent investigation by the Reed Smith law firm released on Tuesday showing what Glossip’s legal team says are prosecutors’ alleged attempts to feed information to another man involved in the case, Justin Sneed, that ultimately kept him from becoming a primary suspect.

The petition states that Glossip “had no prior criminal record and has been a model prisoner for over 25 years while he has maintained his innocence,” and that the death row inmate is currently facing his fourth execution date while Sneed, whom Glossip’s attorneys allege is the “real killer… is serving a life sentence for the same crime.”

Glossip was sentenced to death in the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese. Prosecutors allege that Glossip killed Van Treese, the owner of a motel where Glossip worked as a manager, by convincing Sneed, then a 19-year-old maintenance worker, to execute his killing.

Sneed is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in a room at the Oklahoma City motel. Sneed testified that he killed Van Treese, but only after Glossip promised to pay him $10,000 to commit the crime. Reed Smith’s most recent report suggests that Sneed intended to recant at one point. Evidence from the law firm includes a handwritten note in which Sneed asks his attorney, “Do I have the choice of recanting at anytime during my life?”Glossip’s attorneys argue that public defenders veered Sneed away from recanting and hid evidence that may have contributed to a different ruling for Glossip decades ago.

“The truth is, in this case… it becomes ever more apparent with each passing day, that not only did the prosecution destroy evidence – they manufactured evidence,” Knight said Thursday. “They changed people’s testimony, they broke the rules, all to try and get a conviction against Rich Glossip on a death penalty case that should’ve never been brought at all.”

He continued: “Rich Glossip is a nobody. He’s not some powerful person. He’s just like all the rest of us. This is what the government can do when they’re allowed to run amok. To do whatever they want in a case when the lawyers aren’t good, when the lawyers hide evidence, when the government runs an incomplete investigation.”

Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane – one of the many lawmakers advocating for a new hearing – said Thursday that their efforts are “not about the DA’s office.” “This is about process,” the state representative said.

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