6 Things To Know About Richard Glossip’s Controversial Delayed Execution

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While waiting to be led to the death chamber on September 30, 2015, Richard Glossip was eating his third last meal: a medium Pizza Hut double-bacon, double-cheese pizza, two orders of Long John Silver’s fish and chips, a Wendy’s Baconator burger, and strawberry malt.

Related: A Year Of Killing: The Last Meals Of The Condemned And Death Row In America

Two weeks before, on September 16, Glossip had been granted a two-week stay hours before his scheduled execution after his lawyers filed an emergency request.

On this third attempt to kill him, the 3 P.M. start time for the execution came and went. As his life played out like a grim version of Groundhog Day, Glossip paced back and forth in his cell wearing only his underwear. Outside, his family, assuming he had been executed, began grieving. After an agonizing 45-minute wait, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin announced a 37-day stay of execution, citing concerns with the state’s lethal-injection protocol.

“Last minute questions were raised today about Oklahoma’s execution protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection,” Fallin said in a statement. “After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of Corrections, I have issued a 37-day stay of execution while the state addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the protocols approved by federal courts.”


Following a botched execution in 2014 and two drug mix-ups in 2015, then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (now the head of the EPA), said he will not request any execution dates in Oklahoma until he is confident that the death penalty can be carried out without any problems. A few months later, a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission was established to conduct an independent review of Oklahoma’s capital-punishment system, and its findings could have enormous impact on when Oklahoma resumes executions. Meanwhile, Glossip’s fate hangs in the balance.

Related: Arizona Death Row Inmate “Gasps And Snorts” For 2 Hours After Botched Lethal Injection

Incredibly, the delay is only the latest twist in a case that has spanned more than two decades. The story began on January 7, 1997, when 19-year-old Justin Sneed murdered Barry Van Treese, a motel owner for whom both Sneed and Glossip worked, with a baseball bat. The police found Sneed’s fingerprints all over the bloody crime scene and in the victim’s vehicle. Sneed later confessed to the killing, in an interrogation that will be shown in the series. The tape shows that after being told that identifying someone else as the planner would help him avoid death row, Sneed said that Glossip hired him to murder Van Treese. Despite a lack of corroborating forensic evidence, Glossip was sentenced to death.

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Below are six facts about this complicated case that continues to make headlines:

    1. Glossip was convicted almost entirely on the testimony of one man — the murderer. Although police found fingerprints belonging to Sneed at the crime scene and in the victim’s car, there was no forensic evidence found to link Glossip to this murder. Before the police had time to focus on him, Sneed fled the scene of his crime. A week later, Sneed was captured and confessed to the killing but, after intense prodding by two very aggressive detectives, claimed that Glossip had promised him money to kill Van Treese. For testifying against Glossip, the state agreed to waive the death penalty against Sneed. Glossip insisted that he was innocent and refused to accept a plea bargain. In 1998, an Oklahoma jury convicted him of the murder based almost entirely upon the word of Sneed, and sentenced him to death. But in 2001, a unanimous Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the conviction, calling the case “extremely weak” and finding that Glossip had received unconstitutionally ineffective assistance by his counsel. In August 2004, Glossip, now represented by a lawyer that had only been leading the defense effort for a few months, was convicted by a second Oklahoma jury of the murder and sentenced to death. Once again, the star witness for the prosecution was Justin Sneed. Glossip’s new lawyers have uncovered evidence that Sneed admitted to lying about this testimony.
    2. The midazolam controversy began with the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. 
      Clayton Lockett [Wikimedia Commons]

      Clayton Lockett [Wikimedia Commons]

      One-third of the lethal cocktail that Glossip was set to receive during his execution is a sedative, often used for anesthesia, called midazolam. It’s meant to cause unconsciousness, but opponents say it doesn’t induce the deep unconsciousness necessary to prevent prisoners from experiencing the painful effects of the two other drugs in the protocol.

      Clayton Lockett was convicted in 2000 of murder, rape, and kidnapping, and his execution on April 29, 2014, marked the first time that the controversial drug midazolam was used in a lethal injection in Oklahoma. The process went horribly wrong when Lockett, 38, regained consciousness and died an agonizing death that spanned over 40 minutes. Witnesses to the execution said it was like something “out of a horror movie” as he writhed and moaned in anguish. Following Lockett’s botched execution, Glossip and several other death-row inmates in Oklahoma petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to have their executions stayed. On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma’s lethal-injection protocol in a sharply divided 5-4 opinion in Glossip v. Gross. The court found that lethal injections using midazolam do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, and that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method. Justice Breyer wrote what is now a well-known and oft-sited dissent that called for the end of capital punishment in America today.

    3. Glossip has a growing number of supporters — including Susan Sarandon, Sir Richard Branson, Pope Francis, and Sister Helen Prejean — who believe in his innocence and are campaigning for his release. The high-profile case attracted international attention after Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, who portrayed nun and death-penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean in the movie Dead Man Walking, took up his cause. Sister Prejean, who runs the Ministry Against the Death Penalty out of Louisiana, has served as Glossip’s spiritual adviser, frequently visited him in prison, and was present to witness his execution, on September 30, 2015. In an open letter to The Oklahoman on the scheduled date of Glossip’s execution, Richard Branson wrote of his support for a “man, father, son, and fellow human being” who was convicted of first-degree murder 17 years ago amid “a breathtaking lack of evidence.” Even Sneed’s own daughter believes that his testimony about Glossip’s role in the murder could be inaccurate. In a letter attributed to her to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, she wrote, “For a couple of years now, my father has been talking to me about recanting his original testimony.” 

    4. The interrogation tapes of both Justin Sneed and Richard Glossip were never played for either of Glossip’s jury trials. The tapes, parts of which you will see in the series Killing Richard Glossip, show Justin Sneed being interrogated by Detective Bemo and his partner and only confessing after being told that they were holding Glossip, and that if he confessed that Glossip had hired him to murder Barry van Treese, Sneed would avoid death row. Additionally, Richard’s interrogation tape shows him clearly and unequivocally denying he had anything to do with the murder. According to lawyers and trial experts, Sneed’s interrogation video would have been very useful for the defense in the trials.  Unfortunately, and shockingly for experienced death-penalty attorneys, Glossip’s lawyers in both trials never introduced them.

    5. States started using the controversial drug midazolam due to the scarcity of other lethal-injection drugs. Lethal injections were originally administered with a three-drug process, first using a barbiturate called sodium thiopental, which anesthetized the prisoner. The second drug, pancuronium bromide, induced paralysis. And the third, potassium chloride, stopped the heart. The first drug was particularly important: Absent a proper dose of sodium thiopental, the effects of the second and third drugs would be indisputably excruciating, akin to being burned alive. But, due in part to activist pressure on international suppliers, sodium thiopental became almost impossible to find. So death-penalty states began experimenting with replacement drugs, including midazolam — which, as a benzodiazipane and not a barbiturate, is far from an ideal substitute — according to The Intercept.

    6. For now, executions in Oklahoma are on hold, and future executions around the country are up in the air.  In recent years, 30 states have either formally abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in more than eight years. Recently, attorneys for nine death-row inmates challenged Arkansas’ execution protocol, and when their state supreme court upheld it, the inmates cited Glossip’s case when asking that the U.S. Supreme Court revisit the ruling. “Glossip has resulted in unmitigated disaster in Oklahoma,” the Arkansas inmates’ lawyers wrote. “Since the Supreme Court approved of the midazolam protocol there, Oklahoma authorities have shown that they cannot properly carry out the protocol. Oklahoma executed one prisoner with the wrong drug in January 2015 … and it almost executed another with the wrong drug before a member of the execution squad caught the error hours before the injection was to occur,” the attorneys added in their court filing. “This state of affairs gives the U.S. Supreme Court a good reason to revisit Glossip.”   

Related: Arkansas Needs Volunteers To Watch 8 Executions In April — Could You Do It?

Read more:

KFOR
NBC News
The Huffington Post
The Intercept
RichardGlossip.com
The Guardian
KJRH

Main photo: Richard Glossip [Sky News / YouTube (screenshot)]

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  • Sherri Willis

    I think Glossip is involved in this crime.

    • Niel Hoffman

      You think he is involved? Based on what exactly?
      I have no opinion either way yet, i’d like to see a fairly represented trial and then i may have an educated opinion.

    • Tamara Alexander

      Me too but where is the evidence?

      • Sherri Willis

        I’m sure it’s there. I think the key is Sneed or finding the “woman”.

        • KRJ

          I’m sure it’s there is not a reason to kill someone. I truly hope you are not a juror in a capital murder trial

          • Piggy Azalea

            Maybe you would feel differently if it’s YOUR mother or child that was murdered.

          • KRJ

            I believe in justice. If they have the proof then OK. Just to think they a guilty is not enough reason. You are one of those that don’t require proof?

          • Sherri Willis

            Why because I believe in capital punishment? With DANA and CCTV, crimes are proven better now. And LWOP and life sentences are a waste of taxpayer’s money.

          • jmcox

            It actually costs more to put a person on death row and execute them. There are so many appeals and delays and in the end, that costs the taxpayers much more than Life Without Parole. Death is an easy out, life in prison is a punishment.

          • Sherri Willis

            Not if the appeals are limited. And make the allegedly innocent person kick to prove their innocence. Have the lawyer’s cut their costs down because they are the ones making the money. It does cost more for life without parole. You have to feed, clothe, medicate, educate, rehabilitate, protect, nurse, etc and that costs money. Taxpayer’s money that should NOT be spent on someone who killed an innocent woman, child, man, family, or group of people!

        • DarthYan

          the problem is that a.) Justin has a very good reason to lie and b.) even if he WAS put up to it there are other people who could have done it. Richard PAGE (a white supremacist who beat a man to death), Richard’s deadbeat brother bobby. Other inmates have testified that sneed was a liar.

        • Jordan Gomes

          I believe in capital punishment IF it can be proven beyond doubt. There is no DNA evidence or CCTV images that connect Glossip to the crime, he was convicted solely on the confession of the man we know was the killer. Doesn’t make sense.

          • Sherri Willis

            Glossip’s case isn’t one where I’d be comfortable with capital punishment because Sneed could be lying. But other cases where the guilt is proven and solid, capital punishment should be enforced, sooner and not later.

    • Melynda Johns

      Based on what exactly?

      • Sherri Willis

        Sneed was too dumb to plan it all by himself and I think that’s also what the detectives thought also. His snarky attitude in the interview videos was off-putting, too.

        • DarthYan

          even with that the case it could be Bobby Glossip (Richard’s worthless brother). Bobby had a history of violence and often dealt drugs.

          It’s like the Kevin cooper case; DNA seems damning but when they were all handled dubiously before testing they have the right to call foul

          • Sherri Willis

            I didn’t know about Glossip’s brother. Thanks.

  • Lori Anderson

    I would like to see a whole new trial since this case has been botched from day one. Cause there is no evidence

  • Michael Nolan

    Listen he changed his story to where the killer admitted to gossip that he killed that guy and then the next day
    As manager he helps the killer fix the window . And he doesn’t check inside the room ? Really ,your the manager and dont think to check inside for glass , which then he would discover the body . Really? Really. ? And another thing a person who hires someone will never have forensic ev

    • Robin Iu

      I’m for the death penalty, but this case & so many turn out bad, dirty, rotten, lazy cops don’t want to investigate or there’s those in uniform being paid off by the drug lords, etc. or drug lords in their own right & they want to keep their gravy train rolling – so pull this crap. This case stinks to high heaven. Why destroy evidence? Why witness tamper? Both criminal acts themselves. I’ve seen in our county nearly 100 men released from prison after DNA proved they were innocent of their convicted crime in just a matter of 2 years!! That’s how many innocent people we have in prison while the freakin guilty are still out there raping, murdering, stealing & terrorizing those around them. Nearly 100 men from 1 county over decades – but in 2 yrs the new DA found them to be innocent. Kudos to that DA to have the guts & ethics to undo the wrongs of the cops & DAs before him.

    • Isis Lial

      richard glossip is very much innocent

    • william bonnell

      Well, he did not help himself when at his second interview he told them, Sneed had said he killed the owner of Motel. He didn’t tell them that during he first interview, which makes him an accessory to murder. As for helping repair the window, it could have been something as simple as just holding something in place, helping. Other than that, no reason to go into room, that’s Sneeds job to cleanup. Their is no evidence, other than a killer saving his life implicating Glossip. These Detectives assumptions as to Glossips not telling the truth is laughable. Sadly, a man is about to executed based solely upon the Killers confession!

    • DarthYan

      except sneed himself claimed glossip reached down and touched barry’s wallet and took money. His prints weren’t there

  • Carmen Screenwriter Smith

    Why should I care about Richard Glossip?

    • Jet0618

      Because what if it was you or someone you love?

    • Jordan Gomes

      Because if he can be convicted to a death sentence because a known killer pointed the finger at him and no other evidence then so can anyone

    • Richard M Spencer Sr.

      You are a sick woman Carmen

    • Melynda Johns

      You’d care if it was someone you knew. Keep those blinders on to the bad stuff going on out there and live in your cushy little world.

  • Angela Ortega

    Has Sneed or Glossip ever taken a polygraph test? I know may be admissible in a court of law, or be inconclusive, but just wanna throw that out there…..

  • Jordan Gomes

    No evidence Glossip was involved and convicted solely based on the confession of the murderer, who has all the reason to implicate him seeing as how that would save him from the death penalty. Confession was obviously coerced by pitting the two suspects against each other and telling the murderer that if he implicates someone else he would avoid the death penalty “we know someone else was involved”, “did you know we arrested your buddy Rich?”, “he’s letting you hang on this all your own”. Of course Sneed will come up with a story that fits what the cops want to hear, and a self-serving one that doesn’t make him the only murderer. A “dream confession”. Seems to be enough reasonable doubt that Glossip may not have been involved.
    Interesting comment from Sneed’s own daughter in article, “For a couple of years now, my father has been talking to me about recanting his original testimony.”

  • AnnMarie Ceballos

    I do believe in capital punishment but not for Glossip, I believe that it should be for Sneed regardless of his plea deal! He killed the man in cold blood and took his money then pointed the finger at another man! Glossip is an innocent man on death row! There are too many inconsistencies in the testimony, evidence on Glossips behalf that wasn’t presented, evidence that Mrs Van Treese accounting for better yet projected accounting tallies were wrong, witnesses that weren’t questioned, there was no physical evidence at all that Glossip even suggested to Sneed that he murder Mr Van Treese, no letter, no recording… this is based solely on the testimony of a confessed murder, its complete hearsay!
    I say give Glossip either another chance to prove his innocence with the RIGHT attorneys or exhaunerate him…
    #freeglossip

    • Kristine

      Yeah OKLAHOMA needs to just let him free & let him finally live life. Put the pride away and admit yeah things were screwed up but your setting it right… They just don’t want the lawsuit of letting him out and paying him for taking away his life!

    • william bonnell

      Completely agree with you AnnMarie!!

  • Paula Russell

    I don’t know where they got there information, but I live in BonTerr, Mo. And they kill them here at least once a year if not more!!!!

  • A votre sante

    Sneed was guilty, Glossip innocent. Sneed has no conscience, Glossip did (a clear one at that.) Reverse racism in the judicial system in the case.

  • Chuck Gillum

    THIS MAN KILLED NO ONE.

  • Munk

    The prosecutor case is based on the theory that Glossip embezzled roughly $6000, giving $4000 to Sneed to kill Glossip’s boss. Sneed then killed Glossip’s boss. Big problem: There was no embezzlement. It was an accounting entry showing the difference between the model’s annual projected income and actual annual income. The difference was exactly the $6000 allegedly embezzled. As a country we have to get incompetent, corrupted people out of government.

  • Tinisha Gibbs

    I do not believe in capital punishment especially when it’s based on the testimony of a single individual, who has something to gain, with no evidence that substantiates the claim. There should never be a plea bargain that grants a killer a lesser penalty in order for testimony against another. This is the reason I don’t agree with the punishment to begin it’s simply biased in choosing whom is sentenced to death.

    • Munk

      So true…

  • Karen Owens

    I am totally against sanctioned murders. Everything has been botched in this case. He should be released. Your governor abandoned sanity.

  • Satine86

    This execution would be a travesty if it goes forth. If anything, they should commute him to life in prison, until someone can get this innocent man out of prison and death row. I just wonder if the jurors have seen the tv show and want to know what their thoughts and verdict would be on the evidence not presented at the time of both trials. I hope and I do not say this much but I pray that this man will be granted justice and hope he is set free. We are suppose to be the best nation for justice but this is so wrong.