OKLAHOMA CITY (July 5, 2023) – Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond today filed a brief in support of death row inmate Richard Glossip’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in his case. As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, Drummond contends Glossip’s conviction for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese should be vacated and remanded back to district court amid revelations of false testimony by the prosecution’s key witness.
Despite the State’s extraordinary admission of error in Glossip’s trial, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) in April rejected the inmate’s application for post-conviction relief. That ruling prompted Glossip’s request for the nation’s highest court to decide the matter. Today’s brief supporting Glossip’s petition comes after the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a temporary stay of execution.
“The OCCA’s decision cannot be reconciled with this Court’s precedents, the record in this case, or bedrock principles,” states the brief.
“After careful consideration – including a thorough review by an independent counsel – the State came to the conclusion that …ensuring that justice is done in this case requires a retrial. The State therefore acted consistent with ‘[t]he public trust reposed in the law enforcement officers of the Government’ and ‘confess[ed] error’ in light of the State’s reasoned judgment that ‘a miscarriage of justice’ of the highest order ‘may result from [its] remaining silent.’”
Glossip was initially charged with accessory to murder on Jan. 15, 1997, after the murder of his boss, Barry Van Treese. A co-worker of Glossip’s confessed to beating Van Treese to death in an Oklahoma City motel room. As part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, the co-worker testified that Glossip offered to pay him for the killing.
As a result, Glossip was charged and eventually convicted of first-degree murder in 1998. The co-worker, who was the prosecution’s star witness, was convicted and received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals later overturned Glossip’s conviction for ineffective assistance of counsel, but he was again convicted and sentenced to death at a 2004 retrial.
With the case long mired in controversy, Drummond began seeking answers shortly after taking office. He quickly learned that the State had withheld specific materials from Glossip’s defense team. The Attorney General quickly provided access to these items, referred to as “Box 8,” and appointed an independent counsel to conduct a thorough review of the case.
Evidence in Box 8 led to the revelation in January that Glossip’s co-worker – the prosecution’s star witness – had been allowed to give false testimony that failed to disclose he had been prescribed lithium by a psychiatrist for a serious psychiatric condition.
“The conviction in this case was obtained through false testimony that the prosecution elicited but failed to correct from the most indispensable witness at Glossip’s second trial – indeed, from the person who actually delivered the fatal blows to the victim and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors to avoid facing the death penalty himself,” states today’s brief.
Moreover, the State disputes the OCCA’s April ruling that information about the prosecution’s key witness likely would not have made a difference to jurors.
“With this information, plus [the co-worker’s] history of drug addiction, the State believes that a qualified defense attorney likely could have attacked … [the co-worker’s] ability to properly recall key facts at the second trial and provide a viable alternative theory of the case that did not involve Glossip,” reads the brief.
“At the very least, there is a reasonable probability that evidence casting doubt on a centerpiece of the State’s theory would have been enough to persuade a juror to reject the death penalty."
The brief can be read here https://www.oag.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc766/f/documents/2023/glossipres_...