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Supreme Court blocks Richard Glossip's execution in Oklahoma

The high court has stopped the state of Oklahoma from executing the inmate while it reviews the case.
Fencing outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma.
Posted at 4:36 PM, May 05, 2023

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked Oklahoma from executing death row inmate Richard Glossip after the state's attorney general agreed Glossip's life should be spared.

Glossip had been scheduled to be put to death on May 18 despite statements by new Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond that Glossip did not receive a fair trial.

An Oklahoma appeals court had upheld Glossip's conviction, and the state's pardon and parole board deadlocked in a vote to grant him clemency.

The high court put the execution on hold while it reviews the case. Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the case, presumably because he dealt with it earlier as an appeals court judge.

Drummond, a Republican, supported a high-court reprieve for Glossip, telling the justices, "Glossip’s trial was unfair and unreliable."

But Drummond has also said he does not believe Glossip is innocent of the murder-for-hire killing of Glossip’s former boss, Barry Van Treese, in 1997. Another man, Justin Sneed, admitted to robbing and killing Van Treese after Glossip promised to pay him $10,000. Sneed received a life sentence in exchange for his testimony and was the key witness against Glossip.

Two investigations have revealed problems with the prosecution's case against Glossip.

Drummond said Sneed lied on the stand about his psychiatric condition and his reason for taking the mood-stabilizing drug lithium.

Other problems include the destruction of evidence, Drummond said.

Glossip's case has been to the Supreme Court before. He was given an earlier reprieve in 2015, although the court later ruled 5-4 against him in a case involving the drugs used in lethal injections.

A chair sits in the execution chamber at the Utah State Prison

Why are states considering firing squad executions?

A flurry of new proposals is largely in reaction to a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs, as well as botched executions.