Richard Glossip, 52, will be the next Oklahoma inmate to be executed under the state lethal injection protocol approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court of Criminal Appeals set Glossip’s execution date for September 15, 2016.
Glossip will be put to death for his role in the brutal murder of Barry Van Treese in 1997.
Late last year, Ali Meyer traveled to McAlester to talk with Glossip about his case, his execution and his claims of innocence.
“I’m prepared for whatever happens, but it’s not easy,” Glossip said behind a wall of thick glass and metal bars. “It’s like you’re in a tomb, just waiting to die so they can finish it off. You hardly get any contact, and the contact you have is with guards. It’s hard; harder than people think it is. People think we’ve got it easy down here. It’s not true.”
Richard Eugene Glossip has been on Oklahoma’s death row for 17 years.
“The dying part doesn’t bother me. Everybody dies, but I want people to know I didn’t kill this man (Barry Van Treese). I didn’t participate or plan or anything to do with this crime. I want people to know that it’s not just for me that I’m speaking out. It’s for other people on death row around this country who are innocent and are going to be executed for something they didn’t do. It’s not right that it’s happening. We’re in a country where that should never happen.”
Richard Glossip was convicted of murder-for-hire in the 1997 death of Barry Van Treese.
“They offered me a life sentence at my 2nd trial. I turned it down because I’m not going to stand there and admit to something that I didn’t do. Even though my attorneys said I was an idiot for turning it down because I could end up back on death row. I prefer death row than to tell somebody I committed a crime I didn’t do.” Glossip said. “I understand people want the death penalty, especially in the state of Oklahoma because of the crimes that are committed. I understand that even though I don’t believe in it. But, one thing you should be absolutely sure about is that you’re not about to kill an innocent man.”
Glossip’s co-worker, Justin Sneed, confessed to the murder of Barry Van Treese. Sneed testified against Glossip in exchange for his life. Sneed is now serving a life sentence.
“I wake up and look at these walls and think, ‘How the hell am I here?’ I think about it, try to figure out what went wrong. I just can’t figure it out. It’s a scary thing.”
The State of Oklahoma will use the controversial execution drug Midazolam to put Richard Glossip to death.
“It just really doesn’t make any sense to me what’s going on. They’re just in such a hurry to kill.”
Last year, the State of Oklahoma spent 5 months revamping the death chamber to carry out executions.
“You’re crammed in this box and every day you think about dying. You know they’re putting these cells up there to stick you in. I think that’s when it got even scarier the day they started construction because then you know they’re going through all this stuff to make sure they kill somebody. That’s a scary thing to think about.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN ROOM 102 — Oklahoma Prepares to Execute Richard Glossip
On June 29, the very day the United States Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol in Glossip v. Gross, signaling to the state that it could resume executions, State Attorney General Scott Pruitt wasted no time. His office sent a request to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals asking that death warrants be signed for the next 3 men in line for the gurney – the same 3 men whose challenge had made it all the way to Washington. “The above inmates have exhausted all regular state and federal appeals,” the attorney general wrote, respectfully urging the Court to schedule their executions. On Wednesday, July 8, the Court complied, setting 3 dates for the fall.
Richard Glossip is 1st in line to die, on September 16. As the lead plaintiff in the case before the Supreme Court, his name became synonymous with the legal fight over midazolam, a drug linked to a number of botched executions, but which the Court decided is constitutional for carrying out lethal injections. Glossip, who spoke to The Intercept hours after the ruling, did not have time to dwell on the decision. Even if the Court had ruled in his favor, he pointed out, Oklahoma remained determined to execute him and has provided itself with a range of options for doing so – most recently, adding nitrogen gas to the mix. With a new execution date looming, “I’m trying to stop them from killing me by any method,” Glossip said, “because of the fact that I’m innocent.”
Glossip has always maintained his innocence, ever since he was arrested in the winter of 1997 for a grisly killing that authorities prosecuted as a murder-for-hire. It is true that he himself did not kill anyone – a 19-year-old man named Justin Sneed confessed to police that he beat the victim to death with a baseball bat – but Glossip was identified as the “mastermind” behind the crime. Sneed, who worked for Glossip, claimed his boss pressured him to carry out the murder, offering him employment opportunities and several thousand dollars in return. There was very little additional evidence to back up his claims, but Sneed nevertheless was able to secure the state’s conviction of Glossip, saving himself from death row. Today, Sneed is serving life without parole at a medium security prison in Lexington, Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Glossip faces execution, while continuing to insist he had nothing to do with the murder. Last January, he came within a day of being executed and was in the process of saying goodbye to family when the Supreme Court granted certiorari to his lethal injection challenge.
Glossip has some outspoken supporters, including family members, the longtime anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, as well as his former defense attorney, Wayne Fournerat, who was adamant in a conversation with The Intercept that his former client is innocent. But last October a particularly unlikely figure came forward to plead that Oklahoma spare Glossip’s life: O’Ryan Justine Sneed – Justin Sneed’s grown daughter. In a letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, she wrote that, based on her many communications with her dad, she “strongly believe[s]” that Richard Glossip is an innocent man. “For a couple of years now, my father has been talking to me about recanting his original testimony,” she wrote. “I feel his conscious [sic] is getting to him.”
Justine Sneed’s letter never reached the board. It arrived in the mail too late for Glossip’s attorneys to submit it for consideration. To date, Sneed himself has not come forward – according to his daughter, he fears what it could mean for his plea deal. Nor has she made any further public statements since her letter was published. (The Intercept made numerous attempts to reach her for an interview.) Her claims do not prove that Sneed lied, of course. But the available records in the 18-year-old case of Richard Glossip are themselves good reason for concern. From the police interrogation of Justin Sneed in 1997 to transcripts from Glossip’s 2 trials, the picture that emerges is one of a flimsy conviction, a case based on the word of a confessed murderer with a very good incentive to lie, and very little else. As Oklahoma gets ready to restart executions using its newly sanctioned lethal injection protocol, time is running out to answer the question: Could the state be preparing to kill an innocent man?
It was sometime after 4 a.m. on January 7, 1997, that 33-year-old Richard Glossip woke up to the sound of pounding on the wall outside his apartment at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. He lived there with his girlfriend of five years, D-Anna Wood; she later described waking up to “scraping on the wall.” It was “kind of scary loud,” she said.
Glossip had lived at the motel since 1995, when he was hired by the owner, Barry Van Treese, a father of 5 who lived some 90 miles away and owned a second motel in Tulsa. Van Treese happened to be visiting Oklahoma City, but he generally relied on Glossip to run the daily operations, only dropping by a couple times a month to pay his staff and check on the property. For managing the Best Budget Inn, Glossip received a salary of $1,500 a month, as well as room and board in the apartment adjacent to the motel’s office. On Mondays, which were usually slower nights, he and Wood would lock the front door to the motel around 2 a.m. Any guest trying to check in after that hour had to ring a buzzer to get in.