Editor’s Note: Richard Glossip is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 3 p.m. today. Gov. Mary Fallin said yesterday she would not grant a stay of execution. Glossip’s attorneys also have petitioned the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to delay the execution, citing newly discovered evidence.
BY AL LINDLEY
An open letter to Gov. Mary Fallin, hand-delivered last week to her office:
Your recent statements concerning the upcoming execution of Richard Glossip disturb my Christian values and innate sense of justice. Since 1978 Oklahoma has released 10 prisoners from death row. This is a troubling fact which ought to create a lurid outcry from all Oklahomans. Since 1976 after a Supreme Court ruling reinstated the death penalty in Oklahoma 112 people were executed. How many paid the ultimate punishment for a crime they did not commit?
Justin Sneed, a former co-worker of Glossip, testified that Glossip offered him $10,000 to kill motel owner Barry Van Treese. The prosecution offered no forensic evidence as proof but continued demanding the ultimate punishment for Glossip while the actual murderer serves a life sentence.
In 1988 a comparable case unfolded in Ada, OK when Ronald Williamson, a former OU baseball standout, and Dennis Fritz were convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Debra Carter, a waitress in a restaurant both men frequented. Both men were suspects but never charged until five years later.
While Williamson was in jail awaiting trial on a bogus check charge he shared a cell with Glen Gore. Later, while in custody, Gore told officials that Williamson admitted to the murder of Debra Carter. As proof he offered crime scene evidence that was never released to the public. Years later the DNA collected at the crime site was found to belong to the state’s star witness, Glen Gore, the only one who knew what evidence was found at the crime scene other than investigators.
When errors occur during the investigation or prosecution of a capital crime that result in an execution nothing can be done. A shocking example of this is during the 21 years Joyce Gilchrist served Oklahoma City as a forensic scientist working on more than 3,000 criminal cases resulting in 23 murder convictions and 11 executions.
In 1996 Curtis McCarty was among the 10 people exonerated for their crimes. The DNA collected by Gilchrist was retested and pointed to the actual criminal. It causes many to wonder were other innocent people executed on the strength of Gilchrist’s testimony.
China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oklahoma and 30 other states use executions as punishment. It is a depressing thought that our proud state shares an irreversible punishment with oppressive and cruel governments. Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1846, Wisconsin in 1853 and Maine quit using capital punishment in 1887. The political leaders in these states long before DNA and other scientific evidence realized the problems of executing innocent people.
Sometimes it is difficult to oppose what is perceived popular public opinion but on occasion challenging decisions must be made that counters what a vocal group requests. During the 12 years I represented District 93 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives I sometimes voted opposite of sensed public opinion. On those instances I would explain to my constituents my vote was based upon additional research, question-and-answer period before deliberation or debate itself. Although some disagreed with my vote many others appreciated my thoughtfulness and courage to do what I felt was correct.
Because scientific or physical evidence pointing to Glossip’s involvement has never surfaced I am requesting that you postpone the execution for 60 days allowing for a legal challenge or use your constitutional authority to commute the sentence to prison for rest of Glossip’s natural life. Doing so will ensure that justice prevails.
– Al Lindley lives in Oklahoma City and is a former Democratic state representative