Richard Glossip has been on death row in Oklahoma for 19 years for commissioning a murder -- but a growing consensus of citizens and public servants believe he is completely innocent of that crime. 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.
Police interrogation expert Dr. Richard Leo asserts that the notion that Glossip had “masterminded” the murder “first came from investigators, not Justin Sneed.” Transcripts of Sneed’s interrogation show how Oklahoma City police detectives steered Sneed toward implicating Glossip. At different times, Sneed has told at least eight different versions of his story, and some of these versions did not implicate Glossip at all.
However, evidence recently uncovered by new lawyers working pro bono for Glossip strongly suggests that Sneed was acting alone while high on meth when he went into Van Treese’s room to steal money to buy more drugs, and that Glossip had nothing to do with this murder. Newly discovered witness Michael Scott states that while he was in prison with Sneed, he overheard Sneed bragging about successfully setting up Glossip so that Sneed could avoid a death sentence himself, and that Glossip didn’t have anything to do with the murder. Another newly discovered witness, Joe Tapley, states that he talked with Sneed about the details of this murder, and that Sneed admitted doing it and never mentioned that Glossip played any role at all.
The two trials that Glossip received were riddled with poor and ineffective legal representation. The first trial was overturned on appeal due to ineffective assistance of counsel. That lawyer has since been disbarred. The state-paid lawyers in the second trial conducted virtually no investigation and did little preparation. Their lack of effort on Glossip’s behalf paved the way for his conviction and death sentence. Simply put, there were no facts presented to the jury to support what we now know: Justin Sneed was a drug addict who had been stealing from the motel rooms to support his habit. Acting alone, he broke into Van Treese’s room looking for money, and killed Van Treese when he unexpectedly woke up.
Richard Glossip is innocent, and currently sits on death row awaiting another execution date. Pope Francis, former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, and former Oklahoma Sooners football coach Barry Switzer are among those calling for an end to this injustice.