Oklahoma: Condemned man not due a hearing on innocence claim

AP News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2015 2:37 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Attorneys for the state of Oklahoma say recently emerged witnesses who claim a death row inmate was framed are "inherently suspect," and that their claims don't merit a new hearing ahead of the inmate's execution next week.

In a court filing Thursday, Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office argued that former inmates who have come forward to support Richard Glossip's claim of innocence have a checkered past and could only offer questionable testimony.

Glossip was convicted of ordering the 1997 killing of Barry Alan Van Treese, who owned the Oklahoma City motel where Glossip was a manager. Hotel handyman Justin Sneed confessed to fatally beating Van Treese, but said he did so after Glossip promised to pay him $10,000.

Sneed was sentenced to life in prison after agreeing to testify against Glossip.

Glossip was just hours away from being executed on Sept. 16 when the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered his execution halted so it could review the new claims. Among the newly submitted evidence is a signed affidavit from Joseph Tapley, who said he shared a cell with Sneed in 1997 at the Oklahoma County Jail.

Tapley says in the affidavit that Sneed gave "very detailed accounts" of how he killed Van Treese with a baseball bat, and that Sneed never mentioned Glossip or "gave me any indication that someone else was involved."

"Justin Sneed was very concerned about getting the death penalty. He was very scared of it," Tapley states in the affidavit. "The only thing that mattered to him was signing for a life sentence."

Pruitt's office argues that even if Tapley is telling the truth, Sneed never told Tapley that he acted alone.

"Mr. Tapley merely assumes that Mr. Sneed acted alone because Sneed did not mention an accomplice," prosecutors say in their court filing, adding that Sneed may not have mentioned Glossip because he "did not want to become known in the jail as a 'snitch.'"

The attorney general's office also argues that an alleged conversation that happened 20 years ago "does not even come close to being clear and convincing evidence of petitioner's actual innocence."

Glossip's lawyers also are fighting in federal court to stop Glossip's execution by challenging the state's planned use midazolam. They argue that state law calls for another, less controversial drug to be used that the state could try to get.