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Reports show that Richard Glossip, an Oklahoma man on death row for more than 25 years, may be innocent

People in McAlester, Okla., embrace Sept. 30, 2015, after hearing that Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay for death-row inmate Richard Glossip at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The lethal injection procedure was called off after a doctor discovered the wrong deadly drug had been supplied. On June 15, 2022, an independent investigative report was released that supporters said proves the innocence of Glossip, who remains on death row. (CNS photo/Nick Oxford, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — A law firm’s June 15 report claiming the innocence of Richard Glossip, an Oklahoma man on death row for more than 25 years, is something that advocates, including Sister Helen Prejean, have long emphasized.

Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of the death penalty, has visited with Glossip in prison and encouraged people to write to him there.

Last February, on Glossip’s birthday, she tweeted: “Richard is innocent and could use your support.”

Glossip has been granted a stay of execution on three separate occasions.

After the release of the report saying he is innocent, Sister Prejean retweeted statements from Glossip’s attorneys stressing the injustice of his sentence. She also retweeted the remark of Republican Oklahoma state Rep. Kevin McDugle, who said: “If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty, simply because the process is not pure.”

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary is seen in McAlester, Okla., Sept. 30, 2015. (CNS photo/Nick Oxford, Reuters)

McDugle, a death penalty supporter, spoke during the news conference where the report on Glossip was issued.

“We’ve got an individual sitting on death row that’s been there 25 years and I believe he’s totally innocent,” he said, calling for a new appeals court hearing for Glossip based on the investigation by Houston law firm Reed Smith, which produced the report pro bono.

Glossip, a 59-year-old former motel manager, was convicted of the 1997 murder of his boss, Barry Alan Van Treese, at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City.

His attorney, Don Knight, said the report shows Glossip’s innocence and that in the coming days Glossip’s defense team will file a request for a hearing with the Oklahoma Court of Appeals “so this new evidence of innocence can be examined in a court of law,” he said in a statement.

The report draws attention to Justin Sneed, the motel handyman, who is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in 1997 at the hotel. Sneed testified that he killed Van Treese after Glossip, the motel manager, promised to pay him $10,000.

Catholic Mobilizing Network tweeted June 15 that this “revealing report comes just days after Oklahoma attorney general requested death warrants for 25 individuals, including Glossip.”

Glossip was the lead plaintiff in a failed federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s use of lethal injections.

Catholic leaders expressed disappointment with the federal judge’s ruling in June that said the state’s three-drug lethal injection method was constitutional.

The ruling enables the state to move ahead with executions for more than two dozen death-row inmates who were plaintiffs in a case arguing against the lethal injection drugs and requesting another form of execution.

After the ruling was announced, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City reiterated his anti-death penalty position, saying: “No matter the decision of the court on Oklahoma’s protocol, the use of the death penalty only contributes to the continued coarsening of society and to the spiral of violence.”

He added that “taking another life does not ultimately bring closure and peace to those who have lost a loved one and it goes against the principle of valuing life.”