Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip on Thursday was denied another appeal to vacate his murder conviction in the death of his boss in 1997 and still faces execution in May.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision comes two weeks after a special counsel report recommended Glossip’s capital murder conviction be vacated and that he be granted a new trial, citing newly uncovered evidence in his case.
The former motel manager, who has been behind bars for 26 years, was convicted in 1998 of capital murder for ordering the killing of his boss, Barry Van Treese.
Glossip, 60, has insisted he was not involved in the killing and has narrowly avoided death three times, as previous execution dates ended with reprieves or stays of execution. In January, he learned of his ninth execution date: May 18.
In a 5-0 ruling on Thursday, the appeals court justices wrote, “Glossip has exhausted every avenue and we have found no legal or factual ground which would require relief in this case.”
Earlier this year, state Attorney General Gentner F. Drummond appointed an independent special counsel to lead a review of the circumstances surrounding Glossip’s case. Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, called it “hugely significant,” and “the right thing to do.”
“It is my responsibility to ensure that we are appropriately responding to all evidence that has been presented through Mr. Glossip’s conviction and incarceration,” Drummond said in a statement.
Another employee, then-19-year-old Justin Sneed, admitted to killing Van Treese with a baseball bat in Oklahoma City. But prosecutors told jurors Sneed did so in a murder-for-hire plot masterminded by Glossip. Sneed received a life sentence in exchange for his testimony against Glossip.
Among the evidence included in the special counsel report was paperwork showing Sneed wanted to recant his testimony, writing to his attorney: “There are a lot of things right now that are eating at me. Somethings I need to clean up.”
The report concluded Glossip’s murder conviction should be vacated and he be granted a new trial.
Drummond agreed with the findings and petitioned the court to grant Glossip a new day in court, while also making it clear he wasn’t suggesting Glossip was innocent.
On Thursday, the justices ruled Drummond’s “‘concession’ does not directly provide statutory or legal grounds for relief in this case,” the opinion reads.
“Oklahoma’s elected Attorney General Gentner Drummond found, after conducting his own independent review, that the State’s star witness against Mr. Glossip, Justin Sneed, was not a truthful witness. It is unconscionable for the court to attempt to force the State to move forward with his execution,” Glossip’s attorney Don Knight said in a statement after the ruling.
Drummond said he “respected” the court’s opinion, but said he wasn’t “willing to allow an execution to proceed despite so many doubts.” His office said it was reviewing what next steps it could take.
Knight says he plans to appeal the ruling before the US Supreme Court.
Glossip was first sentenced in 1998, but that was overturned in 2001 because of ineffective defense counsel. He was again convicted in 2004 and again sentenced to death.
In 2015, Glossip was more than an hour past his execution time when the governor issued a stay based on the constitutionality of the state’s execution protocols.
In November, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied a petition for a hearing on new evidence in the case after international law firm Reed Smith released an explosive, more than 300-page report, that concluded, “No reasonable juror hearing the complete record would have convicted Richard Glossip of first-degree murder.”
The report was commissioned by a bipartisan group of 34 state lawmakers and led by state Rep. Kevin McDugle, who has vowed to repeal the death penalty in Oklahoma if Glossip is executed.
“It’s one of the scariest things, especially if you’re an innocent person, to know they’re going to take your life for something you had nothing to do with,” Glossip told CNN in an exclusive interview earlier this year.
“Anybody who looks at this case has to come to the same result and that’s what this whole purpose is, making sure everyone sees the truth,” said Glossip.