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Supreme Court halts Richard Glossip's scheduled execution to consider appeals
Oklahoma's GOP attorney general joined Glossip in asking the high court to stop his own state's scheduled execution.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution for Richard Glossip, who Oklahoma had been planning on executing on May 18 over the objection of the state’s Republican attorney general.
Glossip has maintained his innocence in the case, with long-running questions about his trial, conviction, and sentence having led Republican lawmakers in the state to oppose his execution. Most recently, the questions — and a new independent review of the case — led the state’s recently elected attorney general, Gentner Drummond, to argue in state court that Glossip’s conviction cannot stand.
The stay of execution issued Friday will last while the justices consider two cases that Glossip is asking the justices to hear — one of which Drummond has told the court he will be backing. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who previously sat on the appeals court that hears cases out of Oklahoma, has recused himself from the matter. He previously sat on at least one case considering one of Glossip’s appeals when on that court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
“I am very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for their decision to grant a stay of execution,” Drummond said in a statement. “I will continue working to ensure justice prevails in this important case.”
Expressing similar gratitude to the court “for doing the right thing in stopping Richard Glossip’s unlawful execution,” one of Glossip’s attorneys, Don Knight, said in a statement, “There is nothing more harrowing than the thought of executing a man who the State now admits has never received a fair trial.”
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Drummond already filed a brief at the high court supporting Glossip’s request for a stay of execution. In it, he acknowledged that the state had concluded that “Glossip’s capital sentence cannot be sustained,” referring to the decision as a “confession of error” in the case.
Glossip’s one pending case request — a petition for a writ of certiorari — was initially filed and filly briefed in January, but the justices have repeatedly put off consideration of that case. It addresses evidence the state didn’t turn over to Glossip at trial that could have been used in his defense — often called Brady material after the Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland — and how those violations are assessed when challenged.
The second case request was brought to the court on Thursday and challenges the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) decision from last month rejecting Glossip’s request to have his conviction vacated, ignoring Drummond’s agreement with Glossip that the conviction cannot stand. This is the case that Drummond is expected to back. Of this case, Drummond told the justices in his response to Glossip’s request for a stay of execution, “The State intends to acquiesce in that petition.” The case includes different Brady questions, but also a question about the effect of a state no longer seeking to defend a conviction because of underlying problems in the case.
For Glossip’s team, the news comes as a relief, if a temporary one. “Thankfully, for the time being, Mr. Glossip is out of peril,” Knight said. “Our hope is that the Court will reverse the decision of the OCCA and vacate Mr. Glossip’s conviction once and for all.”
The focus on the U.S. Supreme Court followed the Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Parole turning down Glossip’s clemency request on a 2-2 vote last week. Oklahoma law requires a majority of the board to recommend clemency for the governor — Republican Kevin Stitt, currently — to be able to grant clemency. A member of the board recused themself from considering the matter, meaning that Glossip needed to secure support from three of the four voting members instead of three of the five total members. That move has led to ongoing state court litigation from Glossip’s lawyers.
Indirectly acknowledging how rare such a move is from this U.S. Supreme Court, Knight also gave thanks to “the many courageous people in Oklahoma, especially Attorney General Gentner Drummond, Reps McDugle and Humphrey, and the many legislators in Oklahoma who have taken a deeper look at Mr. Glossip’s case and stood in opposition to the execution of this innocent man.”
This post was updated and expanded after initial publication, with the final update at 4:00 p.m.
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