The Slatest

Court Stays Execution of Oklahoma Inmate Who May Be Innocent

A demonstrator protesting the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip at the state capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Nick Oxford/Reuters

Oklahoma’s highest criminal appeals court has granted a two-week stay of execution in the case of Richard Glossip, a convicted murderer whose guilt has been questioned by observers ranging from the Innocence Project’s Barry Scheck to former Oklahoma Republican senator Tom Coburn. Glossip was scheduled to be put to death at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday before the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that it needs time to review what his attorneys contend is new evidence in the case.

Glossip was convicted of involvement in the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, who owned the motel where Glossip worked with a man named Justin Sneed. Sneed, who has been sentenced to life in prison, admitted to carrying out the crime but testified that he’d been induced to do so by Glossip. Law professor Robert J. Smith and attorney G. Ben Cohen wrote about Glossip’s case in Slate on Tuesday, concluding that Sneed is an extremely unreliable witness whose testimony was coached and provoked by police and prosecutors:

It is bad enough that Sneed received a deal in exchange for his testimony. It is worse that the detective “educated” Sneed about Glossip being the mastermind. But what’s not only unforgivable, but downright immoral, is that the prosecution put forward the Glossip-as-mastermind theory in a capital case, with a man’s life on the line, when Sneed couldn’t even keep his story straight.

Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, a prominent death penalty advocate, has said she will not intervene to stay Glossip’s execution. Fallin issued a statement after today’s ruling asserting that “court is the proper place for Richard Glossip and his legal team to argue the merits of his case” and that she will “respect whatever decision the court makes.”