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Glossip's Attorneys Question Legality Of Two Week Stay By Appeals Court

Attorney Don Knight speaks to reporters during a state Capitol news conference Sept. 14, 2015.
Brian Hardzinski
/
KGOU
Attorney Don Knight speaks to reporters during a state Capitol news conference Sept. 14, 2015.

Death row inmate Richard Glossip is questioning whether a court order last week delaying his execution for two weeks violates state law.

Glossip is set to die for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, who was beaten to death in the Oklahoma City motel he owned. Justin Sneed, the maintenance man at the Best Budget Inn, said Glossip paid him to kill their boss.

Several of Sneed’s cell mates testified they heard him bragging that he set Glossip up in order to spare himself the death penalty. Sneed is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

Just hours before Glossip was scheduled to die September 16, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals halted the lethal injection so judges can have more time to review evidence attorneys claim proves Glossip’s innocence. The court set a new execution date of September 30.

In a court filing Tuesday, Glossip’s attorneys say that move violates state law:

§22-1001.1. Execution of judgment - Time - Stay of execution. D. Should a stay of execution be issued by any state or federal court, a new execution date shall be set by operation of law sixty (60) days after the dissolution of the stay of execution. The new execution date shall be set by the Court of Criminal Appeals without necessity of application by the state, but the Attorney General, on behalf of the state, shall bring to the attention of the Court of Criminal Appeals the fact of the dissolution of a stay of execution and suggest the appropriateness of the setting of a new execution date. E. After an execution date has been set pursuant to the provisions of this section, should a stay of execution be issued by any state or federal court, a new execution date shall be set by operation of law thirty (30) days after the dissolution of the stay of execution. The new execution date shall be set by the Court of Criminal Appeals without necessity of application by the state, but the Attorney General, on behalf of the state, shall bring to the attention of the Court of Criminal Appeals the fact of the dissolution of a stay of execution and suggest the appropriateness of setting a new execution date. F. After an execution date has been set pursuant to the provisions of this section, should a stay of execution be issued by any state or federal court and then vacated by such court, the sentence of death shall be carried out as ordered prior to the issuance of such vacated stay of execution. If the prior execution date has expired prior to the vacation of the stay of execution, a new execution date shall be set by operation of law thirty (30) days after the vacation of the stay of execution. The new execution date shall be set by the Court of Criminal Appeals without necessity of application by the state, but the Attorney General, on behalf of the state, shall bring to the attention of the Court of Criminal Appeals the fact of a vacation of the stay of execution and suggest the appropriateness of the setting of a new execution date.

In short, the motion says a new execution date can’t be set until the court dissolves its previous stay, and then the execution must be set either 30 or 60 days afterward, not 14, as the attorneys argue in this case.

In a separate court filing Monday, Glossip’s attorneys also said they were investigating a claim that a box of evidence related to Glossip’s case was destroyed. An Oklahoma City Police report indicates the property was transferred from the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office in 1999 and set to be destroyed because Glossip had exhausted his appeal.

The box contained a roll of duct tape and a bag with duct tape, along with an envelope containing a note, eyeglasses, a wallet, knives, and keys, as well as a white shower curtain and miscellaneous papers and financial records.

The attorneys filed the claimed based on a report by KOKH-TV Fox 25’s Phil Cross:

“You're supposed to preserve it and all of us have a duty as lawyers, especially the prosecution has a duty to maintain custody of any evidence that is in any investigation of any criminal offense,” said Oklahoma City defense attorney Garvin Isaacs. Isaacs is a noted defense attorney, but he spent part of his career in the prosecutor’s office, but he is not connected to the Glossip case. Isaacs says the destruction of evidence is, to say the least, a big deal. “When you destroy a piece of evidence,” Isaacs told Fox 25, “That raises the inference in the law that that evidence is against you. Isaacs says what that means is when a party destroys evidence, the jury should be instructed to take that as an admission of guilt. Isaacs read from the book he calls the “Bible for defense attorneys,” in describing what the destruction of evidence means for prosecutors. “He is said to give ground to believe his case is weak and not to be won by fair means,” Isaacs read.

Retired detective Janet Hogue is the closing officer listed on the police report, and told Cross she doesn’t remember that specific box.

However she said when evidence was marked for destruction, the district attorney’s office would call a police supervisor who would send her to get boxes of evidence. She said she never had access to the property room and someone from the DA’s office would have had to have given her that specific box and it would have been marked with the case information and contents. Glossip’s case had been ruled on, but according to online court records the destruction of evidence was ordered just days after the appeals court had ordered the case back to an Oklahoma County courtroom for a “fact finding” hearing.

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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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