OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt granted another temporary reprieve to death row inmate Richard Glossip, pushing his scheduled execution back until February 2023 so that an appeals court has more time to consider his claim of innocence.
Stitt, who is locked in a tough reelection contest, issued an executive order on Wednesday that delays Glossip's execution, which was scheduled for Nov. 21. Stitt's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. A clemency hearing for Glossip that was scheduled before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board next week also will be delayed.
Glossip received the death penalty for the 1997 murder-for-hire killing of his boss, motel owner Barry Van Treese. Prosecutors acknowledge Glossip did not kill Van Treese, but maintain that he paid the hotel maintenance man, Justin Sneed, to do it. Sneed, who received a life sentence but was spared the death penalty, was a key witness in two separate trials in which Glossip was convicted.
Attorney General John O'Connor said in a statement that he respects the governor's decision but remains confident in Glossip's guilt.
“After 25 years, justice is still on hold for Barry Van Treese and his family," O'Connor said. “Mr. Van Treese was in a room of the motel he owned when he was brutally murdered with a baseball bat by Justin Sneed, an individual Richard Glossip hired to work at the motel and later enlisted to commit the murder. Two different juries found Glossip guilty of murder for hire."
Van Treese's brother, Ken Van Treese, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Stitt's decision.
Glossip asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for a new evidentiary hearing following the release of an independent investigation by Houston law firm Reed Smith that raised new questions about his guilt. The firm’s report did not find any definitive proof of Glossip’s innocence, but raised concerns about lost or destroyed evidence and a detective asking leading questions to Sneed to implicate Glossip in the slaying.
“The newly uncovered evidence shows a concerted effort by the state to destroy and hide evidence that is favorable to Rich, even to this day, and, most shockingly, to manufacture trial testimony they needed to convict him," Glossip's attorney, Don Knight, said in a statement. “There is now overwhelming support for what Reed Smith has concluded after its thorough investigation — that no reasonable juror who heard all the evidence would find him guilty."
A bipartisan group of 62 Oklahoma legislators, led by Republican state Rep. Kevin McDugle, have signed a request that a new evidentiary hearing be granted.
Glossip, now 59, has long maintained his innocence. He has been scheduled to be executed three separate times, only to be spared shortly before the sentence was set to be carried out. He was just hours from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug, a mix-up that helped prompt a nearly seven-year moratorium on the death penalty in Oklahoma.
Sean Murphy, The Associated Press