Faith leaders from Oklahoma and Louisiana are trying every legal and religious move they can muster to prevent the state-mandated execution of Richard Glossip.
Glossip, now 51, has contended for the past 17 years he did not kill or hire anyone else to murder Barry Van Treece, owner of 2 motels in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Although prosecutors and the homicide detectives who worked the case firmly believe in Glossip's guilt, faith leaders like Sister Helen Prejean are just as convinced the former motel manager is innocent. Glossip was employed as the night manager for the Best Budget Inn which Van Treece owned. Prejean told Red Dirt Report that Pope Francis is aware of the Glossip case and is "praying for everyone in Oklahoma," including Gov. Mary Fallin.
Fallin issued a statement last week that she would not consider any more stays of execution for Glossip, a comment that drew criticism from capital punishment foes.
Prejean befriended Glossip and has visited and prayed with him several times on Oklahoma's death row in McAlester where he is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 16. Prejean, an outspoken critic of capital punishment, said Glossip was convicted twice because of ineffective attorneys and an overzealous district attorney in Bob Macy, who is deceased. The 1st conviction in 1998 was overturned because of ineffective counsel. He was convicted a 2nd time 7 years later.
The 2 assistant district attorneys who prosecuted Glossip - Connie Smothermon and Gary Ackley - did not return phone calls for comment. Ackley retired from the DA's office and Smothermon is now a law professor at the University of Oklahoma.
While Glossip was given the death penalty in the alleged murder-for-hire scheme, Justin Sneed worked a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for beating Van Treece with a baseball bat at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City.
"The jury only heard from Justin Sneed who was a jailhouse snitch and the man who actually killed Barry Van Treece. They relied solely on his testimony," Prejean said in a telephone interview from her New Orleans home. "Then, if you don't have a good defense attorney you don't get your message out there and evidence is made to disappear after all these years."
Without speaking directly about the Glossip case, the Most Rev. Paul S. Cloakley, Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, called upon Oklahoma's political leaders to abolish the death penalty.
"Our faith impels us to call for the building up of a culture of life where every human life is valued from conception to natural end. The use of the death penalty, in any form, diminishes us all, and oftentimes provides little comfort to families and survivors who have suffered through these violent acts," he said. "We cannot substitute vengeance for justice."
Members of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches reportedly are trying to meet with Fallin to share their concerns that an innocent man will be executed. No firm date has been set.
Justice has been elusive for Glossip, Prejean said.
"But that's the justice system we have," she said, referring to police and prosecutors who want a quick arrest and conviction.
"Richard Glossip didn't have so much as a traffic ticket. He wound up on death row solely on the word of Justin Sneed. How we got to this point is outrageous," she said.
However, Prejean remains hopeful that either Fallin will grant Glossip a reprieve or the U.S. Supreme Court will order a special hearing.
"If neither of those happens, Richard Glossip - an innocent man - will die on Sept. 16," she said. "That will be on everybody's head from (homicide detective) Bob Bemo to the prosecutors to the governor."
Brady Henderson, legal director for American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said Glossip's scheduled execution is "most troubling" because the facts are undisputed that Glossip did not kill Van Treece.
"At least in the last 2 executions there was no compelling doubt they had killed. There was nothing left on the table in court. So when Richard Glossip is executed, Justin Sneed will be sitting in prison and will not be executed," he said. "The person who murdered Barry Van Treece will still be alive."
|Sister Helen Prejean|
In this case, Oklahoma's legal system allows someone to be executed on evidence that is "ambivalent at best."
"Contrast that to the Colorado theater shooting case where the defendant is going to remain alive. That's a problematic issue surrounding the death penalty," Henderson said.
According to his own appeals attorneys and Prejean, Glossip lied to police during their investigation, a mistake that he has regretted the past 17 years. His supporters say Glossip should have told police early in the murder probe that Sneed, a handyman who lived at the motel, confessed to him about killing Van Treece.
After being pressured by homicide detectives, Sneed said he was paid by Glossip to kill Van Treece for fear the motel owner would fire both men because of missing motel receipts and money.
"There's no doubt you could say Glossip is guilty of serious violations after the murder occurred, but has he done things that allow him to be executed?" Henderson asked. "At this point, it's sad the legal system has let it go this far."
Glossip's appellate attorney Don Knight of Littleton, Colo., was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Sneed's daughter, O'Ryan Justine Sneed, wrote a letter in October 2014 indicating that her father wanted to recant his testimony from the 2 trials, but feared reprisals from law enforcement officials.
"My father told me he said what he had to say to the police to stay in my life," she wrote in the letter. "He was backed into a corner, facing being charged with the death penalty, but was offered a plea agreement of life without parole to testify against Mr. Glossip. I feel he is holding important facts about Mr. Glossip's case in fear of losing his own deal."
The letter's last paragraph reads, "I'm writing today to ask for clemency for Mr. Richard E. Glossip, and to please not execute an innocent man. One innocent life has already been taken by my father's actions. A 2nd one doesn't deserve to be taken as well."
Source: reddirtreport.com, August 18, 2015
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