By Heide Brandes
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin on Tuesday denied a stay of execution for a convicted murderer despite a plea to put off Wednesday's scheduled lethal injection from those who say the state may be putting to death an innocent man.
Richard Glossip, 52, is set to be executed at the state's death chamber in McAlester on Wednesday at 3 p.m. local time after unsuccessfully challenging the legality of Oklahoma's lethal injection mix. He was found guilty of arranging the 1997 murder of the owner of an Oklahoma City motel he was managing.
Fallin, a Republican, said her legal team examined what lawyers for Glossip called "new evidence" and determined it was neither new nor substantial enough to warrant a stay of execution.
"After carefully reviewing the facts of this case multiple times, I see no reason to cast doubt on the guilty verdict reached by the jury or to delay Glossip's sentence of death. For that reason I am rejecting his request for a stay of execution," Fallin said in a statement.
Glossip's lawyers also filed a last-minute petition with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to halt the execution.
No physical evidence tied Glossip to the crime, his lawyers said, adding he was convicted largely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who confessed to carrying out the killing and said Glossip hired him to do it. Sneed is serving a life sentence.
Glossip's execution would be the first in Oklahoma since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that the use of midazolam, a sedative used in the lethal injection procedure, did not violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Lawyers for Glossip and two other Oklahoma death row inmates had challenged the use of midazolam, saying it could not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery, making it unsuitable for executions.
A stay for Glossip has won backing of an unusual group including former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican; former Dallas Cowboys and University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer; and the Innocence Project, a group that seeks to exonerate wrongly convicted prisoners.
In 1997, Barry Van Treese, owner of the Best Budget Inn, was bludgeoned to death by Sneed. Glossip was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to death that year, with the decision upheld on appeal.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham)