Richard Glossip. (pic: Sky News)
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin granted a 37 day stay of execution an hour after the US Supreme Court today (Wednesday) refused to consider new evidence.
After a long legal fight ending in a 3-2 split decision of judges in the state criminal appeal court, a man convicted of murder in the US state of Oklahoma was due to be executed by lethal injection today, Wednesday.
He had lost his final legal bid to avoid being put to death. Only the Governor could order a stay.
Now, I am not going to enter or even start a debate about the rights and wrongs of any country or, as in the US, any state having capital punishment as an ultimate sanction. But I am going to question the competency of a judicial system that has convicted this man, Richard Glossip.
Let’s look at the undisputed facts of the case.
Barry Van Treese, who owned an Oklahoma City motel, was murdered in 1997. At that time, Glossip, now aged 52, worked there.
Justin Sneed, a handyman at the motel, admitted killing Van Treese with a baseball bat but said Glossip had paid him to do it.
He denies any involvement and says he has been ‘framed’.
Strangely, there was no physical evidence linking Glossip to the crime, just the testimony of the then teenager Sneed who escaped the death penalty in return for testifying against Glossip.
Sneed is serving a jail sentence, while Glossip still faces the death penalty.
What I find peculiar is that without any physical evidence, the prosecution’s case depended solely on the word of the person who admits carrying out the murder. And he became a prosecution witness as part of a deal with the District Attorney; a deal that meant he did not have to face the death penalty for his actions.
So, the court in Oklahoma had the word of one man against another – with no physical evidence.
Now, I may be missing something here but it seems to me to be impossible for anyone on a jury to say, after considering the testimonies of both men, that Glossip was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. Hell, I would surely have had reasonable doubt.
But two juries did decide just that. Yes, somehow, he was convicted twice.
And that is why Richard Glossip’s life was almost ended today. I don’t know if Glossip is innocent but to me he was not proved guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and that means he should have been acquitted.
It is often said that if you are not guilty you have nothing to fear. It seems that may not be true in all parts of the US.
British justice with understanding and compassion
Meanwhile, in the UK, a woman who admitted stabbing a man to death has had her prison sentence reduced from 7 years to just 3½ years. She had been cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.
Her victim, Michael Pleasted, was a convicted paedophile and was on bail awaiting trial on further charges of sexual assault on young boys.
The judge stated that he had reduced the sentence to such a level because Sarah Sands, 32, (pictured right) had lost control and afterwards had given herself up to police, admitted what she had done, had not attempted to conceal or dispose of any evidence and had shown remorse through the investigation and trial.
He described it as an extraordinary case and also said the he had taken into account that Sands is a single mother.
I can think of more than a few people who would have happily done the same thing as this woman.
(Sarah Sands’s pic: Metropolitan Police/PA)