OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma who supports the death penalty said Monday he and several of his GOP colleagues are seeking an independent investigation into the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip.
In a letter state Rep. Kevin McDugle has drafted to Gov. Kevin Stitt and the head of the state's Pardon and Parole Board, McDugle said he believes new evidence suggests the now 58-year-old Glossip may be innocent.
“We appreciate how difficult decisions like this are and know how seriously you take them," McDugle wrote. “Many of those who have signed this letter support the death penalty but, as such, we have a moral obligation to make sure the State of Oklahoma never executes a person for a crime he did not commit."
McDugle said he's invited several of his colleagues to a dinner Wednesday night to review details of the case and that he expects more than a dozen of his colleagues will sign the letter.
Glossip was convicted of ordering the beating death of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese in 1997 and was sentenced to die. Another man, Justin Sneed, admitted to robbing and beating Van Treese with a baseball bat, but said he did so only after Glossip promised to pay him $10,000. Sneed, who was sentenced to life in prison, was the prosecution's key witness in the case against Glossip.
Glossip's attorney, Don Knight, said he's uncovered new evidence in the case, including accounts from people who said Sneed acknowledged carrying out the crime himself and implicated Glossip only to save himself from the death penalty.
“The truth is, this case was never properly investigated at all," Knight said. “The police did very little."
Knight said because Oklahoma law makes it so difficult for an appellate court to review a death penalty conviction, Glossip's only hope at avoiding execution may be a clemency hearing before the Pardon and Parole Board, which could recommend that the governor commutes his sentence to life in prison.
Knight also complained that Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has failed to turn over all of the evidence collected in the case, including notes from the original detectives, a video tape from a nearby gas station and the results of a polygraph test administered to Glossip.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, whose office prosecuted Glossip before Prater took office, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about Knight’s comments. But Prater has said previously that he’s confident in Glossip’s guilt and that, if necessary, he would retry Glossip and seek the death penalty.
Oklahoma once had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, but a moratorium on capital punishment has been in place since 2015 following three consecutive flawed executions. Glossip himself was just hours away from being executed in 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug.
Separately, lawyers for Glossip and several other death row inmates are challenging the state's lethal injection protocols in a case in federal court in Oklahoma City.