Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip once more eluded death Friday when his May 18th execution was put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision came after his attorneys argued in their filings to the court that there were problems with Glossip’s 1997 trial. They also claimed that Oklahoma will “suffer harm from its Department of Corrections executing a person whom the State has concluded should never have been convicted of murder, let alone sentenced to die, in the first place.” Glossip’s case recently got a boost following a show of support from the Oklahoma Attorney’s General office.
“I am very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for their decision to grant a stay of execution. I will continue working to ensure justice prevails in this important case,” tweeted Attorney General Gentner Drummond.
Glossip has spent more than 25 years on Death Row for the 1997 murder-for-hire of his boss, hotel owner Barry Van Treese, a crime he has long said he didn’t commit. He’s accused of hiring a man named Justin Sneed to undertake the crime, and while Sneed is serving life in prison, Glossip was sentenced to death. Per CNN, the justices will now decide if they will take up his case. Glossip has had nine execution dates and has been served his last meal three times.
Over the years, Glossip has amassed a growing cadre of high-profile supporters who believe that he was not granted a fair trial, including Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking fame) and Kim Kardashian, who tweeted in celebration: “The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution to Richard Glossip. He will NOT be executed!”
His most recent champion is Drummond, who asked for clemency for Glossip following an investigation of his case that alleged prosecutors failed to disclose evidence and that Glossip’s alleged accomplice Sneed gave false testimony. Despite this show of support, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals declined Glossip’s request to stop his execution back in April. A previous investigation — spearheaded by 35 Oklahoma state lawmakers, including 29 Republicans — also alleged that the state destroyed evidence and cops tampered with Sneed’s testimony
Glossip has been a kind of figurehead for the anti-death penalty contingent since a then-18-year-old Justin Sneed killed Barry Van Treese with a baseball bat in 1997 in room of 102 of the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The prosecutors’ story went that Glossip hired Sneed, a fellow hotel worker, to kill his boss, hotel owner Van Treese, because Glossip had been caught stealing. He was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1998 but has long maintained that he never stole from Van Treese nor hired Sneed to kill him.
According to Glossip’s current lawyer, Don Knight, what followed were two disastrous trials featuring unprepared lawyers; Glossip was then denied clemency in 2014. Although he has had several execution dates, Glossip has come close to death three times before. His first scheduled execution, in 2015, was stalled due to a U.S. Supreme Court Case Glossip helmed, Glossip v. Gross, in which he and 19 other inmates petitioned for a writ of certiorari and stays of their executions after the botched 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett, who was conscious during his death. The suit centered on midazolam — the anesthetic that apparently failed in Lockett’s execution — stating that its use was cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court ruled against the inmates and Glossip was set to be executed later in 2015, but that execution was stayed three hours before his death when Knight drew up a petition calling for another hearing. His execution was scheduled yet again, but, in the end, it was stalled when the state found they had the wrong drug, resulting in Oklahoma shutting down executions for several years. Executions resumed in October of 2022, however, as did Glossip’s quest for a new trial.
“You only hear one side of the story more often than not about death row inmates, so they become these animals,” Glossip previously told Rolling Stone. “But in reality, if you follow the guidelines of the death penalty, the majority of the guys down here shouldn’t even be down here. … Too often people come in here and they just lay on their bunks and say, ‘You know what? I’m done.’ … And I try to encourage people that there’s always hope. Look at me, I survived three executions.”