Oklahoma's systemic failures and Glossip's case in particular are emblematic of what is wrong with America's death penalty. The death penalty's problems are a confluence of things that all Americans loathe: a big, broken, costly and dangerous government program prone to mistakes, and with questionable positive benefits.
If nothing else, Glossip’s case exemplifies how easy it can be to receive a death sentence even with an astonishing paucity of evidence. Considering that Sneed’s suspicious testimony is the only evidence linking Glossip to the murder, his case certainly merits another look.
There is no physical or forensic evidence that suggests Richard Glossip had any involvement in the murder of Barry Van Treese at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City in 1997.
At the time of his arrest for this crime Richard was 34 years old with no history of violence or felony arrests. In fact, he is the only prisoner on death row in Oklahoma who has no prior felony convictions. During the many years that he has spent in prison, he has never broken a single rule.
The actual murderer, Justin Sneed, admitted to entering Barry Van Treese’s motel room and clubbing him to death with a baseball bat for the purpose of stealing Van Treese’s cash. In exchange for blaming Glossip for this crime, Sneed dodged a death sentence of his own and is now serving a life sentence in a soft, medium-security prison.
Sneed is the only person who has ever implicated Richard Glossip. There are no witnesses that corroborate Sneed’s story.
Oklahoma is set to execute Richard Glossip, despite grave doubts about his guilt. A chorus of people that includes Republican former Sen. Tom Coburn; Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson; and Barry Switzer, the beloved former Oklahoma Sooners football coach, has called for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to grant a stay of execution.
"Don't put to death an innocent man"
Of the 155 people exonerated off death row (10 of whom were tried in Oklahoma) most were wrongly convicted because their jurors received incomplete or misleading information at trial. This, I'm convinced, is what has happened to Richard Glossip, who is scheduled to be put to death ... I'm involved in the effort to save his life because I am convinced he is innocent.
Nearly 250,000 people have signed a MoveOn.org petition asking Governor Fallin to grant Glossip a 60-day stay of execution to make his case, and the group staged a protest outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday night. Republican senator Tom Coburn, Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, and death-penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean have also called for a halt to the execution.
Recently, a juror from Glossip’s first trial told Oklahoma City’s Fox 25 TV station: “If the defense would have presented the case that they are presenting now in the original trial, (and dare I say in even the jurors in the second), I would not have given a guilty verdict.”
"When Eight is Enough"
How many “true” stories does it take to execute an innocent man? The transcribed statements of Justin Sneed. (pdf)
On January 21, 2016 Sister Helen Prejean delivered Richard's letter to Pope Francis.