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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Countdown to an Execution in Oklahoma

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the State of Oklahoma plans to execute Richard Glossip in the face of mounting evidence that he is innocent, as he has argued all along.

Mr. Glossip was convicted of masterminding the 1997 murder of a man named Barry Van Treese, who owned the motel where Mr. Glossip worked. The conviction was based on no physical evidence and relied largely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, the handyman who carried out the brutal killing with a baseball bat. Mr. Sneed is serving a life sentence without parole — a result of a deal he struck with prosecutors in exchange for testifying that he acted under Mr. Glossip’s orders.

Bad lawyering is behind most death sentences, and Mr. Glossip’s case is no exception. His first lawyer failed to introduce, among other things, Mr. Sneed’s videotaped confession, during which police interrogators threatened him and said it “is definitely going to be better for you” to testify against Mr. Glossip.

An appeals court threw out the conviction, finding that the case against Mr. Glossip was “extremely weak” and that his lawyers were ineffective. In 2004, he was convicted by a second jury, which also did not see the Sneed confession. At least one juror has stepped forward to say that had this and other information been presented at trial, the vote would have been different.

Last year, Mr. Sneed’s daughter wrote to the parole board to say she believes Mr. Glossip is innocent. Her father testified the way prosecutors wanted only to save his own life, she wrote, and would recant now but is afraid of losing his plea deal.

The Oklahoma County prosecutor, David Prater, has called the efforts to exonerate Mr. Glossip a PR campaign. That’s a remarkably dismissive thing to say when a man’s life is at stake. This case is yet another reminder that the death penalty — in addition to being immoral and ineffective — has already taken innocent lives, and as long as it exists it is likely to take more.

Source: New York Times, Editorial Board, Sept. 16, 2015

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