OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s new Attorney General Gentner Drummond plans to ask the state’s Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday to recommend sparing the life of death row inmate Richard Glossip, a highly unusual move for the state’s top prosecutor’s office that typically urges the board to reject clemency.
In a letter dated Monday to the five-member board, Drummond wrote that he has serious concerns about the fairness of Glossip’s trial and cited two independent reviews of the case that recommended Glossip be granted a new trial.
“I am not aware of an Oklahoma Attorney General ever supporting a clemency application for a death row inmate,” Drummond wrote. “In every previous case that has come before this board, the state has maintained full confidence in the integrity of the conviction. That is simply not the case in this matter due to the material evidence that was not disclosed to the jury.”
Drummond previously asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate Glossip’s conviction, saying in a court filing that although the state is not suggesting Glossip is innocent, he had numerous concerns about the trial, including that the key witness against Glossip lied to the jury about his psychiatric treatment and reasons for taking the mood-stabilizing drug lithium. But the court rejected that request last month, paving the way for Glossip to be executed on May 18.
Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, did not immediately return a message left with his office after hours.
Glossip, now 60, was convicted of the 1997 murder-for-hire killing of his boss, motel owner Barry Van Treese, at two separate trials based largely on the testimony of his co-defendant, Justin Sneed. Sneed admitted robbing and killing Van Treese, but he claims he only did so after Glossip agreed to pay him $10,000. Sneed received a sentence of life in prison.
The five-member Pardon and Parole Board is expected to consider Glossip’s clemency recommendation on Wednesday. If a majority of the board recommends clemency, it will be up to Gov. Kevin Stitt whether to allow the execution to proceed or commute Glossip’s sentence to life in prison.
Glossip has been just hours from being executed three times, including once in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug, a mix-up that helped prompt a nearly seven-year moratorium on the death penalty in Oklahoma.
Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter: @apseanmurphy