Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Attorneys For Oklahoma Death Row Inmate Richard Glossip Say They Have New Information In His Case

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
OKLAHOMA CITY - Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip will release new information in the case that they say jurors never saw.

This on the same day supporters go on Dr. Phil to make an emotional plea to save his life.

In an hour-long episode of Dr. Phil Monday, actress Susan Sarandon and anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean laid out the case of why they believe Richard Glossip should not be executed on September 16.

At the center of their concerns is the testimony of Justin Sneed. Sneed is the one who actually killed Barry Van Treese, but testified Glossip was the mastermind behind the murder in a deal to avoid the death penalty for himself.

“It was solely on the word of this man, Justin Sneed, who was 19-years-old, under pressure and he finally gives them what they want to hear,” said Prejean on the Dr. Phil show.

“They’ve got about eight distinct and separate stories that he has told,” said Don Knight, one of Glossip’s attorneys.

Monday, Knight and Glossip's other attorney's released a 43-page document of the statements Sneed made to the police, at trial, and to relatives.

“When you see all these other stories you realize even if one of them is somehow true, this man has told lies at least seven other times,” Knight said.

Yet, Glossip's supporters and attorneys say Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death solely on Sneed's testimony.

“To hear all the conflicting things and then say you going to believe on the word of this man? That he hired him? The one aggravating circumstance in getting the death penalty,” Prejean said.

Gov. Mary Fallin says she would reconsider her decision not to grant a 60 day stay to Glossip if new evidence came forward, but at this point, Glossip's attorney's haven't filed anything new with the courts.

Source: News 9, Dana Hertneky, Sept. 1, 2015

Documents reveal snitch told police numerous stories about 1997 killing

Homicide detectives pressured killer into implicating death row inmate Glossip

OKLAHOMA CITY – Convicted killer Justin Sneed told Oklahoma City homicide detectives several different stories before settling on a version they liked in connection with a 1997 killing, according to documents obtained for this Red Dirt Report exclusive.

Summary of Justin Sneed's stories

Over the course of two murder trials and seven years, Sneed’s stories changed or were embellished as he testified against former co-worker Richard Glossip who is scheduled to die by lethal injection Sept. 16 for the death of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese.

Sneed, a maintenance man at the Best Budget Inn, pleaded guilty to beating Van Treese with a baseball bat and is now serving a sentence of life in prison without parole. According to police interview transcripts, however, Sneed, then 19, was convinced by detectives to implicate Glossip, who for the past 18 years has maintained his innocence. Sneed told two sets of jurors Glossip, the motel’s night manager, promised to pay him if he killed Van Treese.

According to Glossip’s appellate attorneys, homicide detective Bob Bemo pressured Sneed, a drug user with an eighth-grade education and low self-esteem, into blaming Glossip.

When eight is enough

During a Jan. 14, 1997, police interview Bemo told Sneed, “The thing about it is, Justin, we think --- we know that this involves more than just you, okay? We’ve got witnesses and we’ve got other people and we most likely have physical evidence. You know what I am saying on this thing. And right now the best thing you can do is just be straightforward and talk to us about this thing and tell us what really happened and who all was involved, because I personally don’t think you’re the only one. Everybody that we talked to they’re putting it on you, okay? They’re putting the whole thing on you and they’re going to leave you holding the bag.”

The physical evidence Bemo referred to was almost non-existent at the trials. The baseball bat was never found and Glossip’s fingerprints were nowhere at the crime scene, which was Room 102 at the motel.

Bemo later told Sneed, “In other words, if you just said you don’t want to talk to us and you want to talk to an attorney we would march you down to the jail and we would book you in for this charge and you would be facing this thing on your own. And I don’t think it’s just you.”

According to Don Knight, one of Glossip’s appellate attorneys, the detectives continually lied to Sneed by telling him multiple people were blaming him for the murder. In truth, no one other than Glossip had mentioned Sneed’s name, the documents show.

Sneed initially told the detectives he didn’t know what to say about the killing. At one point during the police interview, Sneed is unable to tell the detectives Glossip’s last name.

Later, Bemo tells Sneed, “You know Rich is under arrest don’t you?”

“No, I didn’t know that,” Sneed replied.

A few seconds later, Bemo said, “So, he’s the one --- he’s putting it on you the worst. Now I think there’s more to this than just yourself and I would like for you to tell me what --- how this got started and what happened.”

Sneed talked about a fake robbery idea his brother, Wes Taylor, conjured up but never acted on. However, the detectives began insinuating to Sneed that it was Glossip’s idea to rob Van Treese and kill him.

In the same interview, Sneed’s story changed to “I didn’t kill Barry Van Treese,” causing Bemo and his partner, Jim Cook, to turn up the heat with their questions and comments.

“Well, that ain’t going to get it. They’re putting it all off on you. That’s what I am trying to tell you,” Bemo said.

Later in the interview, Cook tells Sneed, “You’re going to have to get straight with us, you’re going to have to get straight with yourself, and mainly, you have to get straight with the Almighty.”

Incredibly, Sneed later told the detectives “I just meant to knock him out.” He also told detectives Glossip promised to split $7,000 with him after Van Treese was dead.

In yet another story told by Sneed, the convicted killer told police, “Actually, Rich asked me to kill Barry, so he could run the motel.”

Apparently, that version satisfied detectives Bemo and Cook, who told Sneed this particular story would save him from the death penalty.

According to the police interview transcript, Sneed asked the detectives, “So, is this going to help me out at all telling you of this?”

Cook replied, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. This is definitely going to be better for you this way than it would be if you didn’t say anything.”

About a minute later, Bemo told Sneed, “I’m going to tell you this, your old bud, Rich, was planning on letting you hang for this.”

“I ain’t going to hang by myself. I’m telling you all the truth,” Sneed replied.

Prosecutors claimed in the two trials that Van Treese noticed motel receipts were missing and that he planned to confront Glossip. Prosecutors also argued in both trials that Glossip arranged the killing to keep his job as night manager.

Evidence shows the two detectives escorted Sneed away from the interview room and continued to talk with him about the killing. Those conversations were not recorded, according to the documents obtained by Red Dirt Report.

In May 1998, shortly before the start of Glossip’s first trial, Sneed made his deal with prosecutors to testify against Glossip in exchange for his sentence of life in prison without parole.

Knight claims too many versions of the killing and the circumstances surrounding Van Treese’s death should have been red flags for the two juries. Instead, the juries found Glossip guilty both times. However, the first conviction in 1998 was overturned because of ineffective counsel. Glossip was found guilty a second time in 2004.

As many as eight different stories have been told by Sneed to police and prosecutors, leaving Glossip’s defense team to shake their heads wondering where the truth lies.

Earlier this month, an investigator with Glossip’s defense team talked to Sneed’s mother. In the interview, Sneed’s mother said in January 1997, a few days after her son was arrested, he wrote a letter from jail. Sneed reportedly wrote that others were involved, and then added, “You won’t believe who!”

Sneed’s mother asked the investigator, “How high up does this go?” She also told the investigator she continues to believe there were other people involved in the murder.

Source: Red Dirt Report, Tim Farley, August 31, 2015

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