Death row inmate Richard Glossip has been granted a 60-day stay of execution while a state appeals court considers his innocence claim.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order on Tuesday delaying Glossip’s execution for the 1997 killing of motel owner Barry Van Treese, which had been set for September 22. The order reset Glossip’s execution date to December 22.
“This stay is granted to allow time for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals [OCCA] to address a pending legal proceeding,” the order said.
Stitt’s decision means Glossip, 59, has now had an execution date stayed or reprieved four times.
It also means that a clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board that had been scheduled for next week will be postponed.
Stitt’s office and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor’s office have been contacted for comment.
Glossip, who has long maintained his innocence, asked the OCCA for a new evidentiary hearing after an independent investigation by Texas law firm Reed Smith raised concerns about lost or destroyed evidence and a detective asking leading questions to Glossip’s co-defendant, Justin Sneed, to implicate Glossip in the slaying.
Sneed admitted killing Van Treese but said he did so at Glossip’s direction. He was sentenced to life in prison and was a key witness against Glossip.
“We are extremely grateful for Governor Stitt’s thoughtful and compassionate decision to grant a 60-day reprieve for Rich’s execution date, and to do so sufficiently in advance of the August 23 clemency hearing to spare everyone the trauma that such a hearing entails,” Glossip’s attorney Don Knight said in a statement to Newsweek.
“This will also spare Mr. Glossip from beginning the cruel execution protocol for a fourth time.”
Knight added that “new evidence of innocence continues to be uncovered on an almost daily basis, including compelling evidence of admitted killer Justin Sneed’s desire to recant his testimony accusing Mr. Glossip of orchestrating the murder of Barry Van Treese.
“The defense team will continue to focus our efforts on bringing this evidence to the OCCA to obtain the new hearing Rich clearly deserves.”
State Rep. Kevin McDugle, who was among 62 state lawmakers who called for a new hearing, said he was “thankful for Governor Stitt’s wise decision to grant Richard Glossip a 60-day reprieve so the OCCA has time to complete its work.”
McDugle, who led the ad hoc committee of state legislators that requested Reed Smith investigate the case, said the evidence that Sneed had wanted to recant his testimony further underscores the need for a new evidentiary hearing.
“It is now undeniable that Mr. Glossip is an innocent man,” McDugle said.
“Oklahomans—including both those who support and oppose the death penalty—will not tolerate him being executed without being given the chance to call witnesses in court, and to confront the lies of Justin Sneed that have robbed Mr. Glossip of the last 25 years. Now more than ever, I urge the OCCA to quickly grant the evidentiary hearing that his attorneys have requested. This is the only way to begin to right this terrible wrong.”
Glossip’s latest execution date was set after a federal judge upheld the state’s lethal injection protocol in June. Glossip had been the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit arguing the use of midazolam creates the risk of severe pain and suffering, violating the the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Before that, Glossip had been served his last meal three times, choosing to eat the same four things each time: fish and chips, a Wendy’s Baconator, a strawberry shake, and pizza.
In September 2015, he was just hours from being put to death when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug. That mix-up and others led to a nearly seven-year moratorium on the death penalty in Oklahoma.