As death row inmate Richard Glossip waited for word from the U.S. Supreme Court, appeals from Pope Francis and others continued to question the state’s decision to execute him.
Attorneys for Glossip filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that “newly discovered evidence completely undermines” the credibility of the co-defendant who testified against Glossip at trial.
“This Court has recognized that false confessions are an intolerable risk in capital cases,” the petition states.
In an interview outside the prison Wednesday, Attorney Don Knight also said they’ve asked Gov. Mary Fallin to issue a 60-day stay so Glossip can have a new clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
Glossip was previously denied clemency at a 2014 hearing, but Knight said the board could be persuaded by new evidence he said has been uncovered and the “serious doubt that exists in the case.”
“We’re simply asking them to stop trying to kill him,” Knight said.
In a separate motion filed to Justice Sonia Sotomayor late Tuesday, attorneys for Glossip asked for his execution to be stayed so the petition for writ could be considered by the court.
As the circuit justice for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor is tasked with emergency requests sent to the court from Oklahoma. In death penalty cases, applications for stays are typically referred to the full court —but not always— so Sotomayor could act on it alone.
Only four Supreme Court justices must vote in favor of a petition to be heard, but five out of nine must agree to stay an execution when a case is referred to the full court. Glossip is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Glossip spoke to a reporter from Sky News Tuesday night as his last meal was served, who described Glossip as trying to remain upbeat. He chose a meal similar to the one he ate two weeks ago before receiving a stay: a medium pizza with double bacon and cheese, Long John Silver’s fish & chips, Wendy’s Baconator burger and a strawberry malt.
Glossip’s attorneys say the new evidence includes affidavits from former cell mates of his accomplice Justin Sneed, convicted of beating Barry Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in 1997.
Sneed received a life-without-parole sentence in exchange for his testimony that Glossip orchestrated and paid him to kill their boss at the Best Budget Inn Motel in Oklahoma City.
Glossip’s petition features sworn affidavits from two men who were behind bars with him. One man claims he overheard Sneed confessing in 2006 that he set up Glossip and the other said Sneed never mentioned Glossip’s role in the crime to him when they were in jail in 1997.
The petition also features an affidavit of a man who says Sneed stole to support his drug habit, and snippets of a videotaped follow-up interview Sneed granted exclusively to The Frontier.
Sneed maintains he is telling the truth; attorneys for Glossip say his statements are inconsistent and contain details not previously shared, making him an unreliable witness.
The petition before the Supreme Court caps off a flurry of legal filings by Glossip’s legal team during the past week, including motions before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for an evidentiary hearing and reset of his execution date, which were denied.
The appellate court’s ruling came down to a 3-2 decision, in which the prevailing opinion dismissed Glossip’s claims of new evidence, saying the allegations “merely builds upon evidence previously presented to the court.”
“Even with this ‘new’ evidence, presented in his successive application, Sneed’s testimony is still corroborated. None of the trial witnesses have recanted their testimony, and Glossip has presented no credible evidence that the witnesses gave falsified testimony at trial,” states the opinion authored by Judge David Lewis.
Two judges dissented, stating that they would have stayed his execution and granted an evidentiary hearing to weigh Glossip’s claims of innocence.
“Because Glossip’s execution is imminent, he will suffer irreparable harm without a stay,” wrote Judge Clancy Smith in her dissent.
In a motion filed earlier Tuesday, attorneys for Glossip asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider its ruling and also for Judge Robert Hudson to recuse himself because of his past position as first assistant to the Oklahoma Attorney General from 2011 to 2012.
That request was not made in previous filings before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. His execution was stayed for two weeks while the court considered his claims of new evidence.
His execution date was originally in January, but that was stayed when the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a case filed by Oklahoma’s death row inmates, arguing Oklahoma’s use of the drug midazolam in executions constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The court upheld the state’s lethal injection procedure by a 5-4 vote.
That case was solely about the lethal injection drugs, however, not evidence related to any of the death row inmates’ convictions.
Glossip’s death sentence has since become the subject of international scrutiny and media attention. Famed anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean has said she believes Glossip is innocent and questions the fairness of Sneed, who killed Van Treese, receiving a life sentence in exchange for his testimony. She appeared on the Dr. Phil show to discuss the case along with actress Susan Sarandon.
Prejean has been one of Glossip’s most vocal public supporters and plans to witness his execution Wednesday as a friend. She took her campaign against six U.S. executions in the next nine days to Twitter as Georgia prepared to execute Kelly Gissendaner on Tuesday evening, the only woman on death row in that state.
People are worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. #kellyonmymind
— Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) September 29, 2015
Future generations will look back on executions like those set to take place over the next 9 days and say, “What were they thinking?” — Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) September 29, 2015
Several motions to stay Gissendander’s execution were denied late Tuesday, and she was executed at 12:21 a.m. Wednesday. Prejean vowed to continue her fight against Glossip’s execution until the last minute.
— Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) September 30, 2015
This story was written as part of The Next To Die, a multi-newsroom collaboration tracking upcoming executions. To see scheduled executions nationwide, please visit https://www.themarshallproject.org/next-to-die