McALESTER, Oklahoma – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order this week staying the execution of death row inmate Richard Glossip, whose attorney says "no reasonable juror" who heard the evidence would have found him guilty.
The order moved Glossip's scheduled execution to Feb. 16, 2023 "to allow time for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to address pending legal proceedings."
Stitt previously issued a 60-day stay in August after 62 state lawmakers, including 46 Republicans, signed a letter to Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor requesting a new hearing to review new evidence in the Glossip case.
Don Knight, Richard Glossip’s attorney, said in a press release new evidence Houston-based law firm Reed Smith discovered calls for further review.
"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," Knight said. "The defense team will continue to work to overturn this wrongful conviction and give Rich the fair trial he never received.”
Glossip was convicted twice of first-degree murder in a 1997 murder-for-hire plot that accused him of hiring Justin Sneed to kill his boss, motel owner Barry Van Treese.
Sneed admitted to killing Van Treese and told investigators it was under Glossip's direction. Sneed received a sentence of life imprisonment and is a key witness against Glossip.
But Glossip’s case gained global attention before an ad hoc committee of 34 Oklahoma legislators called for an independent review. State Rep. Kevin McDugle led the committee and said he would fight to end Oklahoma's death penalty if Glossip is executed.
“On behalf of the 62 Oklahoma legislators who signed a request for an evidentiary hearing based on new evidence, I am thankful for Governor Stitt’s wise decision to grant Richard Glossip a 60-day reprieve, to give the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals time to complete its work," McDugle said in a release Thursday. "Every new day brings more evidence of Mr. Glossip’s innocence, and it is our hope that the OCCA rejects the Attorney General's bogus arguments, which I have refuted here, and comes to the only just conclusion possible— that a new trial is warranted."
Knight said attorneys filed a new petition for post-conviction relief based on two key findings — that Sneed wanted to recant his testimony and that the lead district attorney changed the man's testimony.
Sneed asked his attorney in a 2003 letter if recanting his testimony was an option. Sneed also wrote his attorney’s office in 2007 implying he wanted to recant his testimony.
Sneed’s daughter wrote a 2014 letter stating her father wanted to recant his testimony and believed it would exonerate Glossip.
Knight said a memo written in the middle of the trial states some of Sneed’s testimony needed to be “cleaned up” because some of it didn’t align with testimony from the medical examiner.
Glossip was originally scheduled to be executed in 2015 before then-Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay and a moratorium on executions after several troubled ones.
Oklahoma ended moratorium on executions in October 2021 with John Marion Grant convulsing nearly two dozen times and vomiting on himself before he died by lethal injection.
Attorneys challenged Oklahoma’s three-drug cocktail used in executions before the U.S. Supreme court ruled the state could move forward with executions.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set 25 execution dates in five phases through December 2024.