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

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

URGENT ACTION for Richard Glossip, scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma on 16 September

Richard Glossip with Sister Helen Prejean
Richard Glossip with Sister Helen Prejean

Richard Glossip is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma on 16 September. The case against him is circumstantial and he maintains his innocence. The parole board voted against clemency in 2014. It should reconsider that decision.

Richard Glossip, now 52, was sentenced to death in July 1998 for the murder of Barry Van Treese, whose body was found on 7 January 1997 in one of the rooms of the motel he owned in Oklahoma City.

At the trial, Justin Sneed, who worked as a maintenance man in return for a free room in the motel, confessed to killing the victim but said that Richard Glossip, the manager of the motel, had asked him to do it. Justin Sneed testified against Richard Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty and is serving a life sentence. 

In 2001, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted Richard Glossip a new trial because his legal representation at trial had been “so ineffective that we have no confidence that a reliable adversarial proceeding took place”. The Court noted that there was no forensic evidence against Richard Glossip and that the “only direct evidence” linking him to the murder was Justin Sneed’s trial testimony, and that “no compelling evidence corroborated Sneed’s testimony”.

Richard Glossip was re-tried in 2004 and again convicted and sentenced to death. The case against him remained circumstantial. The prosecution argued that Justin Sneed was dependent on Richard Glossip and Sneed testified that Glossip had offered him US $10,000 to kill Barry Van Treese.

In 2007, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that there was adequate evidence to corroborate Justin Sneed’s testimony, including evidence that Richard Glossip had made attempts to conceal the body from discovery, was intending to leave the area, and had some US $1,200 in his possession which he could not account for. 

The federal District Court judge who denied his habeas corpus petition in 2010 nevertheless wrote that “The State’s case against petitioner hinged on the testimony of one witness, Justin Sneed, petitioner’s accomplice, who received a life sentence in exchange for his testimony. Unlike many cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the evidence of petitioner’s guilt was not overwhelming.”

In October 2014, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously against clemency. At the hearing, Richard Glossip maintained his innocence, asserting that he neither planned nor participated in Barry Van Treese’s murder. The governor cannot commute a death sentence without a recommendation to do so from the Board, but she does have the authority to grant a 60-day reprieve.

Last month, Governor Mary Fallin issued a statement that “Postponing his execution an additional sixty days does nothing but delay justice for the family of Mr. Van Treese”.


A judge who dissented from the 2007 decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to uphold Richard Glossip’s conviction and death sentence argued that Richard Glossip had been denied a fair trial when the prosecution was allowed to post summaries of witness testimony around the courtroom and to leave them there until the end of the guilt stage, which “placed undue and unfair emphasis on this summarized testimony”, allowed witnesses to learn about earlier testimony, and the prosecution effectively to make a continuous closing argument. The judge also argued that Richard Glossip had been denied an “informed consideration of his claims on appeal” when the judge refused to order these exhibits preserved or digitally photographed. However, in 2013 the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit concluded that “Glossip received a fundamentally fair trial”. The US Supreme Court declined to take the case.

Name: Richard Glossip (m)
Issues: Death penalty, Imminent execution, Legal concern
UA: 192/15 Issue Date: 7 September 2015
Country: USA

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!

EITHER send a short email to uan@aiusa.org with "UA 192/15" in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent.

Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if taking action after the appeals date. If you receive a response from a government official, please forward it to us at uan@aiusa.org.


Please write immediately in English or your own language:
* Calling on the Board to rehear Richard Glossip’s case and recommend commutation of his death sentence;
* Calling on the Governor to grant a 60-day reprieve and to urge the Board to reconsider clemency;
* Noting the circumstantial nature of the case against Richard Glossip and that the key evidence against him was the testimony of the person who killed the victim, testimony given to avoid the death penalty;
* Explaining that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime or the suffering caused.


Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board 
PO Box 53448, Oklahoma City, OK 73152, USA
Fax: 011 1 405 602-6437
Email: contact.us@ppb.ok.gov Salutation: Dear Board members

Governor Mary Fallin
Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 212 
Oklahoma City, OK 73105, USA
Fax: 011 1 405 521-3353
Salutation: Dear Governor

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