Remember Glossip v. Gross? The Supreme Court decided it just this summer, where five Justices were in a big rush--unsupported, it seems, by science--to approve the sedative midazolam in executions, because European countries do not import the other drugs anymore, because they know what we do with them.
Apparently there was a big rush to execute Richard Glossip, who is likely innocent.
Today, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted Glossip a two-week stay. News Channel Four report:
“The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals did today, what elected officials have refused to do. We stand with the many Oklahomans and individuals around the world in expressing our gratitude to the court. For today, at least, the state of Oklahoma has avoided the execution of a man not guilty of any capital offense,” said Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Sister Helen Prejean, who is publicly campaigning on behalf of Glossip, firmly believes his innocence. On CNN she provided the following summary:
On January 7, 1997, Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City, was bludgeoned to death by a man, Justin Sneed, who confessed to the killing. However, he claimed that Glossip, the manager of the motel, had offered him money to kill Van Treese. The jury apparently believed Sneed's testimony, and despite the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001 describing the evidence in the first trial as "extremely weak," the decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2013.
As a result of all this, the person who actually committed the murder is now serving a life sentence in a medium security prison, while Glossip, convicted of "murder-for-hire" -- almost solely on Sneed's word, and in the absence of physical evidence from the scene -- now faces death by lethal injection.
Kudos to the Oklahoma appellate instance for doing the right thing, and fingers crossed that justice will come out.
In the SCOTUS decision regarding the drug, Justice Breyer expressed frustration with the fact that the bigger issue--should the United States execute people, or is it cruel and unusual punishment--was once more buried under the details. I deduce (and hope) that there's some interest in reopening it for debate. This case should be a lesson to SCOTUS Justices that, before rushing to embrace new chemicals and execution paraphernalia, we should focus on the crux of the matter--in this case, the risk that an innocent man will be buried in the technicalities.
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