"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Friday, September 18, 2015

Oklahoma: Stay of execution prompts response from local residents, state officials

Sr. Helen Prejean tells Susan Sarandon the good news that Richard Glossip will live to see another day.
Sr. Helen Prejean tells Susan Sarandon the good news that
Richard Glossip will live to see another day. Sept. 16, 2015
After an appeals court halted Richard Glossip's execution hours before he was scheduled to die Wednesday, several Norman residents and officials across the state had mixed emotions.

Norman resident Mary Francis, who protested the execution, said she was glad the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals saw fit to provide a little space for further investigation of the facts in the case. However, Francis and others with the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are opposed to all executions.

"2 weeks is precious little time, but it's better than being executed, of course," Francis said.

As a former president of the coalition, Francis said she came across lots of data about the death penalty, including a survey conducted at the University of Oklahoma in 1988. While a majority were in favor of the death penalty, support for executions dropped when certain factors were involved, such as if a person was mentally ill or there was racial discrimination.

"The citizenry doesn't really understand how the death penalty works," Francis said. "It's a matter of educating the public. They don't understand the pitfalls of executing. There is nothing about killing somebody - I don't care if it's a drug, or hanging, or shooting, or beating them to death - it's not humane. It's immoral, in my opinion."

Facebook user Zakk Flash, who commented on The Norman Transcript's Facebook post Wednesday regarding the issue, called not only for a permanent stay of execution for Glossip but to free him all together.

"All sides agree that Justin Sneed bludgeoned Barry Van Treese to death. The only thing that put Richard Glossip on the chopping block is the word of Sneed, a man out to save his own skin. Even Sneed's own daughter wrote to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board that she didn't believe him," Flash wrote. "Add this to the fact that evidence that could prove his innocence was destroyed before any appeal was decided, and you have a miscarriage of justice as big and wide as the Great Plains. Richard Glossip shouldn't merely be spared the executioner's hand; he should be freed."

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a statement of his own Wednesday afternoon following the stay of execution.

"The family of Barry Van Treese has waited 18 agonizing years for justice to be realized for his brutal death. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals indicated it needs more time to review the filings. I'm confident that the Court of Criminal Appeals, after reviewing the filings, will conclude there is nothing worthy which would lead the court to overturn a verdict reached by 2 juries who both found Glossip guilty and sentenced him to death for Barry Van Treese's murder," Pruitt said.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma, said the appellate court did what elected officials refused to do.

"We stand with the many Oklahomans and individuals around the world in expressing our gratitude to the court. For today, at least, the state of Oklahoma has avoided the execution of a man not guilty of any capital offense," Kiesel said.

Hundreds of Oklahomans and thousands across the country who are members of MoveOn voiced their positive reaction to the 2-week stay.

"We are deeply relieved that - despite Gov. Mary Fallin's failure to act - Richard Glossip has won 2 more weeks to prove his innocence after coming within 3 hours of being executed for a crime many believe he did not commit," said Mark Crain, campaign director for MoveOn.org Civic Action. "MoveOn members have fought hard to save the life of Richard Glossip."

More than 250,000 Americans hailing from every state have signed a MoveOn petition, started by Sister Helen Prejean and actress Susan Sarandon, calling for a stay of execution. This week, MoveOn members made more than 7,000 phone calls to the governor???s office pleading for her to stop Glossip's execution, and they took over the homepage ads of the Oklahoman's website with their call for justice. "We will continue to fight to save Richard's life and for systemic reform to fix our broken criminal justice system," Crain said.

Source: Norman Transcript, Sept. 17, 2015


In Winning Execution Stay, Attorneys Also Claim Other Lethal Drug Is Available

Oklahoma was 3 hours away from executing Richard Glossip Wednesday when the court system threw 2 major wrenches into the state's execution process: An appellate court will review new evidence in Glossip's case, and the state's controversial drug of choice faces a new federal challenge.

Glossip had been served what was supposed to be his final meal when the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 2-week stay to examine claims of new evidence presented by his attorneys in a last-minute court filing Tuesday.

Glossip's attorneys asked for the stay based on what they say is new evidence indicating Glossip's accomplice, Justin Sneed, may have lied about their client's role in the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese to avoid a death sentence.

However, in an exclusive interview with The Frontier, Sneed maintains he told the truth at trial about Glossip planning Van Treese's murder for money.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals issued its stay shortly before noon Wednesday, 3 hours before Glossip was set to die. The court said the stay was issued "in order for this Court to give fair consideration" to Glossip's claims in the "last-minute filing."

Gov. Mary Fallin, who had rebuffed calls by Glossip's supporters for a 60-day stay, issued a written statement.

"As I have repeatedly said, court is the proper place for Richard Glossip and his legal team to argue the merits of his case. My office will respect whatever decision the court makes, as we have throughout this process.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Van Treese family who has suffered greatly during this long ordeal."

Sister Helen Prejean, the nun and anti-death penalty activist who has been an outspoken advocate for Glossip, was jubilant as she addressed a throng of reporters outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where death row is located. Public opinion, including an appearance on the Dr. Phil show, made a difference in the case, she said.

In describing the public's reaction to the Glossip case, Prejean said, "You mean a man's really going to go to his death on the word of one other man without physical evidence and the one who did the murder is serving a life sentence in a medium-security facility? ... That doesn't seem right."

Meanwhile, federal public defenders continued to pursue an injunction seeking to block the state's plans to use the sedative midazolam to execute Glossip and 2 other inmates set to die next month.

In a filing Wednesday, Glossip's attorneys asked a federal judge for a preliminary injunction staying the execution due to new information about the availability of lethal drugs.

The motion stated they had identified pharmacies that can supply compounded pentobarbital.

That anesthetic has proven far more reliable than midazolam, which was used in several prolonged executions throughout the U.S. in 2014. However, as drug manufacturers refused to supply pentobarbital for executions, supplies ran short. Oklahoma and several other states turned to midazolam seeking an alternative.

"The defendants have placed Glossip in an unbreakable box that prevents the Constitution from reaching him," the request for a preliminary injunction states.

The motion was filed as part of a challenge to Oklahoma's death penalty process brought by Glossip and other death row inmates. That case was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the challenge by a 5-4 vote.

"First, defendants claimed that they looked for compounded pentobarbital, but they refused to explain to Glossip why they were unable to get that drug. Consequently, Glossip conducted his own investigation and discovered that compounded pentobarbital is available in Oklahoma," the motion said.

Attorneys told state officials the names and locations of the 4 Oklahoma pharmacies they had identified as suppliers of pentobarbital, said Dale Baich, a federal public defender who represents the death row inmates.

The filing was accompanied by an affidavits from by 2 paralegals who said they talked to representatives of the pharmacies on Sept. 3.

"In the course of calling the pharmacies on my half of the list, I contacted an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy that indicated that it is able to compound sterile injectables and that it is willing and able to compound pentobarbital as a sterile injectable," 1 of the affidavits states.

According to an affidavit from paralegal Julie Gardner, another pharmacy stated "it does not compound sterile injectables, but that it could order the pentobarbital in injectable form and distribute it for use."

2 other pharmacies agreed they could supply compounded pentobarbital, the affidavits state.

However, it is unclear from the documents whether any of the pharmacies said they would supply the drugs for executions.

Baich said the Oklahoma Department of Corrections informed defense attorneys about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday that it planned to go forward with Glossip's execution using midazolam. He said he is unsure what, if anything, state officials did to follow up on the new information.

"You have to wonder how hard the state tried," said Baich, standing outside the prison where Glossip was to be executed.

Records detail a last-minute flurry of letters and emails between the state and attorneys representing Glossip and 2 other death row inmates set for execution next month.

Assistant Attorney General Jeb Joseph sent a letter, which arrived about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, to one of Glossip's defense attorneys seeking additional information about the pharmacies.

"Please provide the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the relevant Oklahoma pharmacies by 5 o'clock today so that steps may be taken to possibly secure the drug in question in time for upcoming executions," his letter to Assistant Federal Public Defender Patti Palmer Ghezzi states.

In a reply, Ghezzi challenged the state to turn over proof it was following up on the new information. Her letter apparently listed the pharmacies, but that information was redacted from court filings due to Oklahoma's law prohibiting release of such information.

"We ask that you provide us the detail of efforts you have made to locate sources for pentobarbital for the executions of Mr. Glossip, Mr. Cole and Mr. Grant," her letter to Joseph states.

"At this juncture you need not provide the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the pharmacies you have contacted, but we do require the number of pharmacies contacted, the dates they were contacted, and who contacted them. Please provide this by 6:00 p.m. today."

In an email to Joseph at 6:27 a.m. Wednesday, Ghezzi wrote: "We have not heard back from you concerning our request in the letter we sent yesterday at 4:30 p.m. Considering Mr. Glossip's execution is set for 3:00 p.m. today, your immediate response is required."

Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the federal court has ordered Oklahoma's response to be filed Sept. 23. There is also a hearing scheduled Sept. 25 in U.S. District Court for the Western District.

Cooper said DOC should answer any questions about the lethal injection protocol. However, DOC has repeatedly refused to address questions about its drug supplies, citing the pending litigation.

In a written statement, Pruitt said Van Treese's family has waited "18 agonizing years for justice to be realized for his brutal death."

"The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals indicated it needs more time to review the filings. I'm confident that the Court of Criminal Appeals, after reviewing the filings, will conclude there is nothing worthy which would lead the court to overturn a verdict reached by 2 juries who both found Glossip guilty and sentenced him to death for Barry Van Treese's murder."

The motion filed on behalf of Oklahoma death row inmates states defense attorneys "gave this information to defendants ... in response to defendants' assertion that they wanted to follow up on Glossip's information.

"Now, almost 19 hours later, and less than 4 hours before Glossip's scheduled execution, defendants declared that they will not change the drug being used in his execution despite being provided information that pentobarbital is available."

A key issue in the U.S. Supreme Court case that bore Glossip's name, Glossip v. Gross, involved whether the state has access to pentobarbital, an anesthetic that has proven reliable in past executions, or other viable alternative drugs. The state has claimed it could not obtain pentobarbital and thus turned to midazolam, a sedative that defense attorneys say is unconstitutional.

The drug was used in botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona, in which the inmates gasped for air or writhed long after they were expected to be unconscious. In a case that originated in Oklahoma, a divided Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in lethal injections in June.

The court's ruling rejecting the inmates' challenge notes that the legal standard requires them to show that the risk of harm from midazolam "was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution."

Because pentobarbital and sodium thiopental, another drug previously used by the state, were not available, the state had no other alternative to midazolam, the majority opinion states.

"The record shows that Oklahoma has been unable to procure those drugs despite a good-faith effort to do so," the court's June 29 opinion states. "Petitioners do not seriously contest this factual finding, and they have not identified any available drug or drugs that could be used in place of those that Oklahoma is now unable to obtain."

News of Glossip's stay came after he had been served a last meal.

Glossip's attorneys said a prison official told them about the stay while they were visiting Glossip around noon.

Attorney Don Knight said Glossip's reaction was "a look of pure joy."

"What did he say? I'll tell you what he said: 'Hell yes!'"

Source: oklahomawatch.org, Sept. 17, 2015


Bob 'Cowboy' Macy sent Richard Glossip to be executed alongside 53 others

Oklahoma death chamber
Oklahoma death chamber
Condemned man Richard Glossip has reportedly already eaten his last meal and was just 3 hours away from being executed when the news came in.

He had been scheduled to die by lethal injection at 3pm local time (6am AEST) but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to delay the execution, granting a request from Glossip's attorneys, who say they needed more time to explore new evidence.

Glossip was twice convicted of ordering the 1997 killing of his boss Barry Van Treese, who owned the Oklahoma City motel where Glossip worked. His co-worker, Justin Sneed, was convicted of fatally beating Van Treese and was a key prosecution witness in Glossip's trials. Glossip has always maintained that he was framed.

His lawyers say they have new evidence, including a signed affidavit from another inmate who claims he heard Sneed admit he set Glossip up.

Glossip's daughter, Ericka Glossip-Hodge, says she and several family members were driving to the prison in McAlester when she learned her father's execution had been stayed.

Glossip-Hodge says they had to get off the road and pull over. She says, "everybody is freaking out. We're really excited."

One of Glossip's lawyers says he was inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary speaking to the condemned inmate when news came down that his execution had been put on hold.

Lawyer Don Knight said Glossip was stunned to learn of the court's decision.

Glossip's case has gone around the world, with Hollywood celebrities including Susan Sarandon, campaigning to have him freed.

But the story is far from over.

The court has rescheduled his execution for September 30.

THE DEATH ROW COWBOY WHO PUT HIM THERE

His signature look was a cowboy hat, thin-framed circle glasses, a white shirt and a skinny black tie. His signature move was sending killers to death row.

Bob "Cowboy" Macy was remembered as the hard-nosed lawyer who, before his death in 2011, cleaned up Oklahoma. He put 54 men in front of a needle to die for their sins.

He grew up with nothing - he didn't go to university and his parents lived in a house without running water until he was 18 - but he forged a career for himself doing the work others wouldn't.

He attended every crime scene to see the grim details for himself, before exacting his own form of cowboy justice on behalf of the victims. His track record was immaculate, but maybe, just maybe, it wasn't perfect.

Enter Richard Glossip, the man on death row in Oklahoma. Glossip is, according to Macy's account of evidence, the "mastermin" behind the motel room murder of Barry Van Treese.

But others, including a host of Hollywood's elite and a woman with inside information on the case, say Glossip had nothing to do with it and Macy got it very, very wrong.

THE KILLING

Van Treese, 54, was beaten to death with a baseball bat in room 102 of the Inn motel in Oklahoma on January 7, 1997.

Justin Sneed, aged 37, confessed to police that he bludgeoned Van Treese, then the motel owner. He said he killed the father-of-5 at the request of Glossip.

Sneed told police Glossip ordered the murder because there were shortfalls in the motel's receipts and he was worried he would lose his job.

The conviction was carried despite a number of holes in the story.

Even Justin Sneed's daughter O'Ryan said her father framed Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty.

In a letter to the Oklahoma clemency board on October 23, 2014, she wrote: "I strongly believe he (Glossip) is an innocent man on death row.

"1 innocent life has already been taken by my father's actions. A 2nd one doesn't deserve to be taken as well."

Kim Van Atta, who has known Glossip for more than 16 years, said his friend's innocence was "clear from the start".

"There's no physical evidence, no rational motive. It just makes no sense," Mr Van Atta told news.com.au

He speaks with Glossip regularly over the phone from his New York home and over the past 12 months has become actively involved in the desperate effort to clear Glossip's name.

"There's a view that people on death row must've done something wrong. But Richard's an outlier. He's just a normal, decent guy," he said.

"He has no criminal record, no history of violence."

The lawyer representing Glossip performed so poorly that he lost his licence to practise as a result. On the other side of the courtroom, "Cowboy" Macy was merciless.

Macy painted Glossip as a "mastermind" criminal and, like so many trials before, he was convincing.

'NOBODY CAN DO IT LIKE BOB'

An Oklahoma City Police Department officer noted after Macy's death that "nobody can do it like Bob". He was right.

"The way Bob handled the crime scenes - coming out to the scene, getting to know the victims' families, tears in his eyes - that's what Bob instils in his people," he told the Oklahoma Gazette.

"Nobody can do it like Bob. Who else is going to defend these victims' families? Bob understands the misery they've been through. That's his claim to fame. What a defender this man has been for all of us."

The man who died aged 81 grew up in Indianapolis, the son of a truck driver and his wife. He had 4 brothers and the family didn't have 2 pennies to rub together.

He joined the United States Air Force in 1956 and went to the University of Oklahoma where he studied law. He found a job with the city's police department and was sworn in as District Attorney in 1980.

That's when the phone started ringing and the bodies started piling up. Case after case landed on Macy's desk and he rarely lost.

Asked in 2001 about the risk of sending innocent men to their deaths, he said: "I feel like it makes my city, county and state a safer place for people to live. I embrace it, not because I get any enjoyment out of it."

Macy is no stranger to controversy. In 1986 he sent a 16-year-old boy, Sean Sellers, to death row. Sellers murdered a sales assistant at a convenience store in Oklahoma because, according to the New York Times, he "wanted to see how it felt".

Some prosecutors were reluctant at the time to sentence minors to death but Macy never blinked.

"He may very well have been the brightest person I sent to death row," he told the Times of Sellers, who also killed his parents.

Some crimes stayed with him longer than others. The murder of the Lorenz family was particularly hard to forget.

Roger Dale Stafford was executed - sent to death row by Macy - after slaughtering Melvin Lorenz, 38, Linda, 31, and their son Richard, 12. The family stopped on a highway to help Stafford's wife who was pretending to have car trouble.

"The thing I remember is the little boy was in the camper - he had massive open-heart surgery and was kind of retarded," Macy said.

"Coming out of that camper were the handprints of the little boy, in blood. They were still there at the crime scene. The one image in my mind was that poor boy being taken out of there and executed."

A LAST-DITCH EFFORT TO OBTAIN A STAY

Advocating for Glossip are billionaire Richard Branson and actress Susan Sarandon. Both have been vocal in their opposition to the death sentence and to Glossip's conviction.

Joining them is a prominent Catholic nun in Oklahoma named Helen Prejean. Sister Prejean said this week the wrong man was on death row.

"I firmly believe, as do so many others, that Richard is innocent of the crime that sent him to Oklahoma's death row," she said.

Online, a petition requests Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin grant a stay. More than 23,000 people have signed it.

The website saverichardnow.org lists in order the reasons Glossip should be let go. Among them are that he did not kill anyone, that he "had no prior history of violence", that he was sentenced on evidence of a convicted killer and that his lawyer failed him.

Oklahoma's track record with administering the death penalty was marred in April 2014 when death row inmate Clayton Lockett took an agonising 43 minutes to die. He was writhing in pain on his stretcher. The incident led to calls to ban death by lethal injection.

Macy is no longer around to see Glossip die. He wouldn't have watched anyway, as was his choice.

"I don't go to the executions," he said in 2001.

"My son said: 'Dad, that's not your job. That's someone else's job. Let them do it.'"

Macy has done his job, but in doing so he might have sent an innocent man to his death.

Source: news.com.au, September 17, 2015

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