Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has stopped three executions, including that of Richard Glossip, a death row inmate who has attracted international attention.
Oklahoma’s lethal injections consist of three medications: midazolam, which sedates the inmate; pancuronium bromide, which causes muscle paralysis; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. According to the executive order signed by Fallin, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections received potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.
Fallin’s press release statement Wednesday, the date Glossip was to be executed, cited “last minute questions” as the reasoning for the decision to halt the executions.
“After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of Corrections, I have issued a 37 day stay of execution while the state addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the protocols approved by federal courts.”
Glossip’s new execution date was set for November 6, but on Thursday, Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a petition to invoke an indefinite stay for all executions.
“The state owes it to the people of Oklahoma to ensure that, on their behalf, it can properly and lawfully administer the sentence of death imposed by juries for the most heinous crimes. Not until shortly before the scheduled execution did the Department of Corrections notify my office that it did not obtain the necessary drugs to carry out the execution in accordance with the protocol. Until my office knows more about these circumstances and gains confidence that DOC can carry out executions in accordance with the execution protocol, I am asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to issue an indefinite stay of all scheduled executions. I am mindful of the families who have suffered an agonizing time through this process, and my heart breaks for them. At least three families have waited a combined 48 years for closure and finality after losing a loved one. Yet, they deserve to know, and all Oklahomans need to know with certainty, that the system is working as intended.”
Richard Glossip was sentenced to death for the murder of Barry Van Treese, a motel owner for whom Glossip was employed. Glossip did not actually kill Van Treese, but former co-worker Justin Sneed claimed that Glossip had paid him to kill Van Treese. There was no actual physical evidence to link Glossip to the bludgeoning death of his former employer; prosecutors used Glossip’s erratic behavior on the date of the trial to obtain a death sentence. Sneed’s life was spared in exchange for his testimony; he received a life sentence.
There have been multiple reports that Sneed had framed Glossip to save himself by lying about Glossip’s involvement. According to a former cellmate, Sneed described the murder in detail numerous times, with no mention of Glossip or a payment being involved. Michael G. Scott occupied the cell across from Sneed in state prison, and stated that Sneed admitted freely that he had falsely incriminated Glossip.
Glossip’s attorneys attempted to file appeals on his behalf, but they were dismissed as “bull**it PR campaigns” by Oklahoma City District Attorney David Prater. The evidence stating that Sneed had framed Glossip has gained the attention of Pope Francis and Susan Sarandon, both of whom have spoken out and advocated for Glossip.
Glossip has filed numerous appeals on his own behalf, the most recent being a writ of certiorari, urging he is innocent, with a petition to the Supreme Court. The court rejected this appeal Wednesday evening. However, this is the fourth time that Glossip’s execution date has been postponed.
Sneed’s daughter wrote a letter in 2014 to the Oklahoma state government, asking for clemency for Glossip. In it, she states that her father had been discussing recanting his testimony, but had been too afraid to act on it. She closes with a heartfelt plea:
“I’m writing to ask for Clemency for Mr. Richard E. Glossip, and to please not execute an innocent man. One innocent life has already been taken by my father’s actions. A second one doesn’t deserve to be taken as well.”
In January of this year, Glossip penned a letter to Gawker, as they periodically post death row inmates’ letters. Their website states that they “present this only to hear the inmate’s own voice, and we do not take any position for or against the veracity of the inmate’s claims.” Glossip’s letter to Gawker can be read here.
[Photos by ABC News; State of Oklahoma; AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]