Richard Glossip is set to be executed by Oklahoma on Wednesday, 16 September. But he is thought to be innocent by many and insists he is being killed for a crime he did not commit.
Glossip was convicted of ordering in the murder of his boss, hotel owner Barry Van Treese, on the sole testimony of the actual murderer. Although Glossip did not take part in the murder, Justin Sneed, the handyman at the hotel who killed Van Treese implicated him, in return for not being given the death sentence for the crime.
Glossip has maintained his innocence from the very beginning. He was twice offered a life sentence twice in exchange for an admission of guilt, but he refused both times. He told The Intercept, hours after his execution date was set, "I'm trying to stop them from killing me by any method, because of the fact that I'm innocent."
Campaigners including Susan Sarandon and Sister Helen Prejean, who Sarandon portrayed in the biopic Dead Man Walking, are still fighting to save Glossip's life. Sarandon has written that Glossip finds himself on death row on one man's dubious testimony for his alleged role in the murder of Van Treese.
Sneed's testimony and new evidence
The innocent dead
"The National Registry of Exonerations lists 115 defendants who were sentenced to death and later exonerated and released after new evidence of innocence was discovered. Of those 115 innocent defendants who had been sentenced to death, 29, a quarter of the total, were convicted after another person who was himself a suspect in the murder gave a confession that also implicated the innocent defendant…"
An extract from an open letter to Oklahoma governer Mary Fallin from Sen. Tom Coburn, US Senator for Oklahoma (2005-2015) and US Representative for Oklahoma's Second Congressional District from (1995-2001)
Barry Switzer, Head Football Coach, The University of Oklahoma (1973-1988)
John W. Raley, Jr, US Attorney, Eastern District of Oklahoma (1990-1997)
Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project
Samuel Gross, Professor of Law, University of Michigan and Editor, National Registry of Exonerations
Justin Sneed told police that on the morning of 6 January 1997 he beat Van Treese to death. He claimed his boss, Glossip, ordered the then 19-year-old to do it. There was, however, no physical evidence corroborating Sneed's accusation.
Glossip's attorneys have come up with new evidence they never presented until now – the first red flag being how police interrogated Sneed – the Mirror reports that in the first three times Sneed recounted the murder to authorities, he didn't even mention Glossip's name. "The only thing that ties Richard Glossip to this case are the words of Justin Sneed," said Glossip's lawyer Don Knight.
But Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, of the Republican Party, is not wavering in her decision not to grant a stay of execution. This is in spite of new evidence being brought in by Glossip's defense team.
Controversy over drugs
Glossip's name became synonymous with the legal fight over midazolam. The drug has been linked to a number of botched executions, including one in which a prisoner took 45 minutes to die, drawing international condemnation. Despite this, the US Supreme Court ruled the use of the drug for lethal injection executions is constitutional in July 2015, because prisoners have the option of being killed using alternative methods.