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Sep 28, 2015 6:17 PM

Oklahoma appeals court says Glossip's execution can proceed

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Oklahoma's highest criminal court on Monday narrowly denied a death row inmate's last-minute request for a new hearing and ordered that his execution can proceed, despite his claims that he is innocent.

In a 3-2 decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied Richard Glossip's request for an evidentiary hearing and an emergency stay of execution. The court ruled the state can move forward with giving Glossip a lethal injection Wednesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

One of Glossip's attorneys, Mark Henricksen, said Monday they plan to appeal the Oklahoma court's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We anticipate filing a petition with the Supreme Court within the next 24 hours seeking a stay and further review," Henricksen said.

Glossip, 52, was scheduled to be executed on Sept. 16 for ordering the beating death of a motel owner, despite his claims that he was framed by the actual killer, Justin Sneed, who is serving a life sentence. But just hours before he was to be put to death, the court granted Glossip a two-week reprieve after his attorneys claimed they had new evidence that he was innocent, including another inmate's claim that he overheard Sneed admit to framing Glossip.

But the court ruled the new evidence simply expands on theories that were already raised on Glossip's original appeals.

"None of the trial witnesses have recanted their testimony, and Glossip has presented no credible evidence that the witnesses gave falsified testimony at trial," Judge David Lewis wrote in his opinion. "Glossip's conviction is not based solely on the testimony of a co-defendant and the execution of the sentence will not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Glossip was convicted of ordering the death of Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn where Glossip worked as the resident manager. Prosecutors allege Glossip masterminded the killing at the motel in Oklahoma City because he was afraid Van Treese was about to fire him for embezzling money and poorly managing the inn.

Sneed, a handyman at the motel, was sentenced to life in prison for fatally beating Van Treese with a baseball bat. In exchange for the life sentence, he agreed to testify against Glossip and was the prosecution's key witness in two separate trials. Both trials ended with juries convicting Glossip and sentencing him to death.

Van Treese's brother, Ken Van Treese, said the family had no comment on Monday's court decision.

Glossip has always maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have provided affidavits in recent weeks from former inmates who said they heard Sneed say he acted alone. One inmate, Michael Scott, wrote that he heard Sneed say "he set Richard Glossip up, and that Richard Glossip didn't do anything."

In a dissenting opinion, Presiding Judge Clancy Smith wrote that the court should grant a 60-day stay of execution and hold an evidentiary hearing.

"While finality of judgment is important, the state has no interest in executing an actually innocent man," Smith wrote. "An evidentiary hearing will give Glossip the chance to prove his allegations that Sneed has recanted, or demonstrate to the court that he cannot provide evidence that would exonerate him."

Judge Arlene Johnson also dissented separately, writing that she thought Glossip's original trial was "deeply flawed" and that an evidentiary hearing should be ordered.

Judges Robert Hudson and Gary Lumpkin concurred with Lewis in the court's majority.

Another one of Glossip's attorneys, Don Knight, said in a statement he was particularly troubled given the court's splintered ruling.

"Two judges believed a further stay of execution and a hearing on innocence was required on the facts," Knight said. "We should all be deeply concerned about an execution under such circumstances."

If carried out this week, Glossip's execution would be the first in Oklahoma since a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state's three-drug lethal injection formula in June. Glossip, the lead plaintiff in that case, argued that the sedative midazolam violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment because it didn't adequately render an inmate unconscious before the second and third drugs were administered.

Another death row inmate Benjamin Cole is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 7 for the 2002 killing of his 9-month-old daughter despite his attorneys' claims that he is insane and ineligible for the death penalty.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy .


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