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Actress, Activist Respond To Fallin's Position On Richard Glossip Execution

Updated August 11, 6:11 a.m.

Gov. Mary Fallin plans to move forward with the execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip despite calls for a stay of execution from death penalty opponents.

The governor said Monday two juries convicted Richard Glossip of murder and sentenced him to death, and that decision was reviewed and upheld by several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Richard Glossip was first convicted of murder and sentenced to death over 17 years ago,” Fallin said in a statement. “He has had over 6,000 days to present new evidence. Postponing his execution an additional sixty days does nothing but delay justice for the family of [Barry]  Van Treese.”

Van Treese owned a motel in Oklahoma City, and was killed during a supposed murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by Glossip. But Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty chair Connie Johnson, who’s also a Democratic state Senator, says the hotel's maintenance worker Justin Sneed bargained with police and lied about Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty. He's serving a life sentence.

"I am shocked and disappointed that the governor of Oklahoma is unwilling to even consider that we may have Richard Glossip's execution wrong,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is disheartening that neither she nor the Pardon & Parole Board is willing to be educated specifically about what's wrong with Gov. Mary Fallin's seemingly boastful statement proclaiming that 'Richard Glossip was sentenced to death by two juries and should therefore be held accountable and executed for his crimes' dismisses recent reports about the 150 exonerations in cases where a jury determined guilt.”

Updated August 10, 10:42 a.m.

Actress Susan Sarandon and death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean used social media Monday morning to respond to several points made by Gov. Mary Fallin's office regarding the pending execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Last Thursday Fallin's spokesman Alex Weintz outlined Fallin's stance in a series of 11 tweets. He said the governor has no plans to grant Glossip a stay of execution, and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board already denied a clemency request.

Weintz said 24 jurors unanimously found Glossip guilty in the course of two trials, and his appeal was denied by courts at the district and appelate level. Prejean responded by saying more than 150 convicted individuals have been exonerated from death row after information came to light proving their innocence.

Sarandon said Fallin should grant a reprieve so Glossip can present evidence that could lead to his exoneration.

"Executing an innocent man can never be reversed," Sarandon said.

Updated August 7, 6:22 a.m.

Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip says he's grateful for the support of actress Susan Sarandon as he awaits his September 16 lethal injection.

It's the first execution scheduled after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's three-drug protocol challenged by Glossip and more than a dozen fellow inmates.

After hearing the Academy Award-winning actress spoke out on his behalf, Glossip phoned Sky News from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester:

"It's really crazy that it's gotten to this point. She can see for herself that this is truly a case of an innocent man who is going to be executed. "And I couldn’t ask for a better person to stand up and speak out for me, and I'm glad that she has and I hope that she'll continue to do so. "For some reason Governor (Mary) Fallin is not looking at it the way that she should be looking at it. "She should be looking at the fact that an innocent man is about to be executed and she should be doing everything in her power to stop that from happening."

Fallin's spokesman clarified the governor's role in granting clemency to Glossip Thursday.

Alex Weintz said Fallin can only grant a 60-day stay of execution, since the five-member Pardon and Parole Board unanimously denied Glossip's request for clemency.

Weintz said if Glossip's attorneys have any evidence that would clear their client, they can present it to a state or federal court and stop the execution.

Glossip lost appeals in the federal court's Western District of Oklahoma, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court after being convicted in two trials and sentenced to die by two separate juries.

Updated  6:55 p.m. 

Gov. Mary Fallin's spokesman clarified the governor's role in granting clemency to Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip Thursday, prompted by an interview with actress Susan Sarandon where the Academy Award-winner expressed her disgust with the state's criminal justice system.

In a series of 11 Tweets, Fallin's spokesman Alex Weintz outlined what the governor can and cannot do leading up to the September 16 execution of Glossip, the state's first since a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld the use of the controversial sedative Midazolam as part of Oklahoma's three-drug lethal injection cocktail. Glossip and nearly two dozen other death row inmates sued, arguing the risk for pain violated the constitution's Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Oklahoman's Graham Lee Brewer analyzed Weintz's tweets, and has spoken repeatedly with murdered Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese's widow and family.

Original Post

Actress Susan Sarandon has weighed in on the pending execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate who sued to stop his lethal injection.

Susan Sarandon at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival
Credit Josh Jensen / Flickr
Susan Sarandon at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

Richard Glossip joined nearly two dozen other Oklahoma death row inmates in arguing the state's protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the U.S. constitution.

“Just from the record of how many people have been exonerated in Oklahoma, you would think that they would stop doing it, because there have been so many people that have been proven to be innocent. There have been 20,” Sarandon said in an interview with Sky News. “In other countries, that was a good enough reason to abolish the death penalty, but in America it doesn’t seem to be.”

Sarandon is an outspoken activist, and won an Academy Award in 1995 for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean in the film Dead Man Walking. Prejean has served as a spiritual advisor to Richard Glossip as he awaits his September 16 execution.


Sarandon said Glossip's case is typical - with two trials, poor legal representation, and no physical evidence linking him to the murder of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese:

[Glossip] was convicted of murder after the man who confessed to the killing claimed that Glossip had hired him to do it. In return for his testimony, Justin Sneed was given a prison sentence, whereas Glossip was sentenced to death. He has been on death row for 17 years but has exhausted all appeals, including to the U.S. Supreme Court. . . . "He's put there by a snitch who actually did kill the person, and then the snitch has life and this guy is being put to death on the 16th.” "Once a mistake has been made within a judicial system, people just do not want to admit that mistake has been made and it becomes impossible to readdress them.”

The Hollywood actress and outspoken activist also sharply criticized Gov. Mary Fallin, calling her a “horrible person” for not halting the execution of Glossip despite questions about his conviction for orchestrating Van Treese’s murder.

"It’s never because of some consciousness-raising that these things change, it’s because of some kind of embarrassment,” Sarandon said. “So this is where public opinion can make a difference. This is where having letters sent to the governor can make a difference.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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