OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday denied a request to halt the execution planned for later this week of Richard Glossip, whose lawyers said they had uncovered new evidence that points to his innocence.
The court said it found the evidence was neither new nor compelling enough to merit postponing the execution set for Wednesday. On Sept. 16, it issued a two-week stay hours before his scheduled execution and set the new date of Sept. 30 for the lethal injection.
“The evidence merely builds upon evidence previously presented to the Court,” it said in a majority opinion.
Glossip, 52, was found guilty of arranging the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of an Oklahoma City motel that Glossip was managing.
“This case splintered the Court of Criminal Appeals - a 3-2 vote. Two Judges believed a further stay of execution and a hearing on innocence was required on the facts. We should all be deeply concerned about an execution under such circumstances,” said Donald Knight, a lawyer for Glossip.
His lawyers have said no physical evidence tied him to the crime and he was convicted largely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19 and the motel’s maintenance man, who confessed to carrying out the killing after Glossip hired him to do it.
Sneed avoided the death penalty by testifying against Glossip and is serving a life sentence.
Glossip’s lawyers presented statements from jail informants who said that Sneed had boasted of setting up Glossip.
The lawyers also filed a request for prosecutors to stop intimidating its witnesses. The attorney general has not commented on the alleged intimidation.
An appeals court had thrown out a previous conviction, saying evidence against Glossip was “extremely weak.” The case went back to a jury in 2004, which found him guilty and upheld the death sentence.
Glossip tried to stop his execution by saying one of the drugs used in the state’s lethal injection mix can cause undue suffering.
If carried out, Glossip’s execution would be the first in Oklahoma since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June the use of midazolam, a sedative in the lethal injection procedure, did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Lawyers for Glossip and other Oklahoma death-row inmates had challenged midazolam, saying it could not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and was therefore unsuitable for executions.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City; Editing by Sandra Maler