CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
Editor's Note: This week, attorneys Don Knight, Mark Olive and Kathleen Lord. – who are working to establish Richard Glossip's innocence – released a lengthy memorandum to reporters worldwide. The memo outlined new evidence in the case they are making for Glossip's innocence.
They and others fighting to stop Glossip's execution are asking for more time to continue their investigations.
Introducing the memo to reporters via email, the attorneys wrote:
“In the early morning hours of January 7, 1997, Justin Sneed, by himself, beat Barry Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in Room 102 of the Best Budget Inn, a motel in Oklahoma City owned by Mr. Van Treese. Upon arrest, he first denied any involvement in or knowledge of the murder. Over the course of a long interrogation by two detectives, Sneed was pressured to implicate Richard Glossip, the manager of the hotel, and was fed details which, if he adopted them, would help him.
“Sneed finally adopted the detectives’ story and agreed, in exchange for a life sentence for the murder he alone committed, to testify that Mr. Glossip was the mastermind of the plot to murder Mr. Van Treese to steal money from his car. Based upon Sneed’s testimony, Mr. Glossip is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, September 16, at 3:00 p.m.
“The prosecutors conceded in argument at trial: 'the physical evidence doesn’t directly implicate Mr. Glossip.' Therefore, the scheduled execution is based upon Sneed’s testimony and credibility alone.
Don Knight and leaders of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will meet with reporters on Monday, September 14 at 10 a.m. in the second floor Supreme Court hallway at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Evidence includes the following:
1.1 The use of interrogation techniques proven to elicit false statements
Richard A. Leo, Ph.D., J.D., is the national, leading expert on police-induced false confessions and erroneous convictions. … Dr. Leo evaluated the circumstances of Mr. Sneed’s interrogations and concluded, based upon decades of social science research, that law enforcement in this case used the “personal and situational factors associated with, and believed to cause, false confessions.” For example:
“The suggestion that Richard Glossip was involved in the homicide of Barry Van Treese first came from investigators, not Justin Sneed. The investigators feed Justin Sneed their theory that Richard Glossip was the mastermind of this homicide, and they repeatedly tell him that Richard Glossip was putting the crime on him;”
Interrogators “repeatedly tell him that he will be the scapegoat for the crime if he does not confess, implying that he will receive the harshest punishment if he does not confess to it; they repeatedly suggest that Richard Glossip is the one who put him up to it; and they tell him that he can get this straightened out;”
Interrogators “presumed the guilt of Richard Glossip from almost the start and sought to pressure and persuade Justin Sneed to implicate Richard Glossip.”
“The investigators repeatedly lied to Justin Sneed by telling him that multiple people or witnesses had implicated him in the murder.”
Dr. Leo’s report explains the science behind why techniques such as these create “the suspect’s perception that he is trapped, there is no way out, and that his conviction will be inevitable, thus leading to the perception that he has little choice but to agree to or negotiate the best available outcome or mitigation of punishment given the subjective reality of his situation.” Such tactics “are substantially likely to increase the risk of eliciting false statements, admissions, and or confessions.”
Finally, Dr. Leo notes Sneed’s “multiple, inconsistent, and contradictory accounts of the crime” which is consistent with a guilty person “falsely implicating an innocent third part as an accomplice.”
1.2 Sneed habitually broke into cars and hotel rooms to support his addiction to methamphetamine
The state portrayed Sneed as a hapless dupe who had taken methamphetamine, but “he didn’t use it that often.” The state asked: “Why would he need that much money?”
Mr. Glossip’s legal team has newly discovered evidence never before presented that casts serious doubt on this key part of the prosecution’s case. According to one of Sneed’s drug dealers at the time, Sneed on his own, habitually broke into peoples’ cars and motel rooms to take property to support his severe drug addition:
AFFIDAVIT OF RICHARD ALLAN BARRETT
1. I met Bobby Glossip who I knew as “Critter” in late 1995 or early 1996 at the Plaza Motel in Oklahoma City.
2. At that time, I began dealing methamphetamine with Bobby Glossip and continued to do so until the end of 1996. During this period of time, we dealt drugs out of many different motels in the Oklahoma City area.
3. In or around September of 1996, I first started meeting Bobby Glossip at the Best Budget Inn on Council Road and 1-40. I met regularly with Bobby Glossip at the Best Budget Inn for the purposes of selling methamphetamine until the end of 1996.
4. I always met with Bobby Glossip in Room 102. Room 102 had a waterbed. I met with Bobby Glossip in Room 102 at the Best Budget Inn at least 3 times a week.
5. One of the first few times I was at the Best Budget Inn there was a young man in Room l02 getting high with Bobby Glossip. He was using methamphetamine with a needle. Bobbie Glossip always made people shoot up with a needle before he would sell to them; to be sure they were not the police. When he left, I asked Bobby Glossip who the guy was. Bobby Glossip told me the kid was the motel maintenance man. Bobby Glossip told me to always keep my car locked when I was at the motel. Later I learned this was because the maintenance man (Justin Sneed) broke into cars at the motel parking lot and stole items from the cars.
6. During this approximately four month period of time I would go to the Best Budget Inn to sell methamphetamine approximately 3 to 4 times a week. Each time I went to the Best Budget Inn, the guy I knew as the maintenance man would come to Room 102 within 30 minutes of me arriving to buy drugs from Bobby Glossip, who was buying drugs from me.
7. Each time the maintenance man would come to Room l02, he would use cash (mostly coins) or items to trade for methamphetamine. I specifically recall Justin Sneed bringing the following items to trade for drugs: food stamps (trade $150.00 in stamps for $100.00 of drugs), radar detectors, car stereos, a Samsonite silver hard-covered briefcase and, on one occasion, a nickel-plated .38 caliber handgun. I was present when Justin Sneed told Bobby Glossip that he had taken these items from occupied rooms at the motel and cars in the parking lots of the motel and other businesses near the motel. I remember that Bobby Glossip traded “a 16” (16th of an ounce) with Justin Sneed for the handgun. This would have been enough of the drug for Sneed to shoot up 6 or 7 times (and would typically last for a day and a half or so). People who use meth with a needle chase the “rush” instead of just the high and so they typically use more of the drug than those who snort it, as I used to do. However, either way, the effects of the drug would last for days. On more than one occasion I observed Justin Sneed shoot up with a needle. Based on my own experience, I believe Justin Sneed was addicted to methamphetamine in a bad way. Methamphetamine is a very addictive drug. I often saw Justin Sneed “tweaking.” This means a twitching of his mouth and a chewing of his lips. This is a sure sign that someone is high on methamphetamine.
8. In my experience, 90 % of the people I knew who were addicted to meth were thieves; stealing to support their habit. People with this addiction stay awake for days or weeks and will do anything to get more of the drug, even kill. People get very paranoid and mean when they are high on methamphetamine, and will shoot someone, or beat someone, even to death, to keep them from telling others of illegal things the user may be doing, or just from having paranoid thoughts that someone might turn them in.
9. I saw nothing to make me think that Justin Sneed was controlled by Richard Glossip. I never saw anything to make me think that Richard Glossip knew anything about Justin Sneed stealing from motel rooms or cars in the motel parking lots or the businesses nearby. I did not see anything to make me think that Richard Glossip was addicted to drugs.
10. I met Richard Glossip when he would come to Room 102 to see Bobby Glossip. Richard Glossip came to the room but never would stay very long. He mostly came to tell us to quiet down. I did not see Richard Glossip socialize with Bobby Glossip. In fact, Bobby Glossip was mean to Richard Glossip and told him to stay out of his business. As far as I know, Richard Glossip was a good hearted guy who was not involved in Bobby Glossip’s drug business. I never saw Richard in the room when people were shooting meth and I never saw Richard come to the room when Justin Sneed was there.
11. When I was in the Oklahoma County Jail, I got a letter from a lawyer named Wayne saying he wanted to talk to me about Richard Glossip’s case. I didn’t know what the case was about, but I heard through rumors at the jail that it was a murder at the Best Budget Inn in Room 102, and they had my fingerprints. This freaked me out, and I started trying to get transferred to federal custody. I entered a plea in my federal case to get transferred so as to get away from this situation. After this, no one contacted me again and it was my intention not to talk to anyone about this situation. When I was first called by my cousin on September 8, 2015 to tell me someone wanted to talk to me about the case, I hung up on her, as I did not want to talk to anyone about this case. I only agreed to talk to Richard Glossip’s lawyer because my mother called me back and asked me to.
12. I was not at the Best Budget Inn on January 7, 1997.
13. I provided this affidavit freely. No one threatened me, coerced me, or offered anything to me in exchange for this affidavit. I swear and affirm that the foregoing statement is true and correct. I am aware that by providing this affidavit, I may have to testify.
Thus, Sneed–a tweaking drug addict who, on his own and for his own selfish need for drug money, routinely broke into occupied motel rooms (like Mr. Van Treese’s) using his access as the maintenance man at the Best Budget Inn, and cars that were in the parking lot of the Best Budget Inn (like Mr. Van Treese’s) to steal people’s property to sustain his drug habit–eventually provided the only evidence against Mr. Glossip.
1.3 Exonerations of death-sentenced inmates are common under similar circumstances:
For example, the following are cases that ended in exonerations for death-sentenced inmates:
Randall Dale Adams (Texas) – David Harris was arrested for the murder when it was learned that he was bragging about it. Harris then claimed that Adams was the killer.
Joseph Burrows (Illinois) – No physical evidence linked Burrows to the crime. He was convicted largely on the testimony of Gayle Potter and Ralph Frye, who received lighter sentences in exchange for testifying. Ms. Potter confessed in July of 1994 that she alone had committed the murder. Mr. Frye recanted his testimony as well, claiming that prosecutors and police officers had coerced him into providing testimony.
Lawrence William (Larry) Lee (Georgia) – Lee was convicted and sentenced to death based upon what the court called “a weak prosecution case dependent for its success on the believability of two witnesses unfavored in the law and by the public – a jailhouse snitch and a co-conspirator – with absolutely no forensic evidence to link [him] to the crime scene.”
Anthony Graves (Texas) – Graves was convicted in 1994 of assisting Robert Carter in multiple murders in 1992. There was no physical evidence linking Graves to the crime, and his conviction relied primarily on Carter’s testimony that Graves was his accomplice. Two weeks before Carter was scheduled to be executed in 2000, he provided a statement saying he lied about Graves’s involvement in the crime. He repeated that statement minutes before his execution.
Nathson Fields (Illinois) (featured on Dr. Phil show with Susan Sarandon, Sister Helen Prejean and defense team member Don Knight)– Fields received a new trial because his trial judge, Thomas Maloney, accepted a $10,000 bribe during the trial and was convicted for fixing murder trials. Co-defendant Earl Hawkins, who had admitted to killing 15 to 20 people, testified against Fields in exchange for a lesser sentence. However, at Fields' retrial, Judge Vincent Gaughan found Hawkins "incredible," saying that "If someone has such disregard for human life, what regard will he have for his oath?"
Jeremy Sheets (Nebraska) – Adam Barnett was arrested for the 1992 rape and murder of the same victim as in Sheets' case. Barnett confessed to the crime and implicated Sheets. In exchange for the taped statement, Barnett received a plea bargain in which he avoided a charge of first degree murder, did not have an additional weapons charge filed, and received a commitment for his safety while incarcerated. Barnett committed suicide prior to the trial and his taped statement was the key evidence used against Sheets at trial.
Wesley Quick (Alabama) – Quick was accused of shooting two men in the presence of a female acquaintance, and then picking up his friend, Jason Beninati. Beninati testified that Quick drove to the scene of the crime and showed him the bodies of his victims. In the retrial in which he was acquitted, Quick testified that it was actually Beninati who was responsible for the murders, and the one who had disposed of the murder weapon.
John Thompson (Louisiana) – Kevin Freeman was originally charged with the murder, but arranged a plea agreement with prosecutors and implicated Thompson. At Thompson’s retrial, the jury heard testimony that Freeman, was the actual killer.
Alan Gell (North Carolina) – The two key witnesses presented by prosecutors were Gell's ex-girlfriend and her best friend, both teenagers who were at the victim’s house and pled guilty to involvement in the murder. They testified that they saw Gell shoot the victim on April 3, 1995, but many witnesses later testified to having seen the victim alive days later. Prosecutors withheld evidence that might have cleared Gell in the initial trial, including an audio tape of one of the girls saying she had to "make up a story" about the murder.
Laurence Adams (Massachusetts) – Adams was convicted at age 19 on the testimony of two witnesses, both of whom had unrelated charges against them dropped after their testimony. The government's key witness testified that Adams had admitted to the offense in a discussion in a private home, but subsequently discovered records indicated that, at the time that the witness alleged the conversation took place, he was actually incarcerated with one of a pair of brothers who were suspects in the case. The second witness recanted her testimony against Adams just prior to her death.
Dan L. Bright (Louisiana) – There was no physical evidence against Bright and the prosecution's key witness, Freddie Thompson, provided the only evidence that served to convict Bright.
Derrick Jamison (Ohio) – Jamison was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 based in part on the testimony of Charles Howell, a co-defendant who received a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony against Jamison.
1.4 A new defense report casts serious doubt on the testimony of the prosecution’s medical examiner.
As reported by Phil Cross at KOKH Fox 25 in Oklahoma City, on September 10, 2015, jurors in the second trial
report being misled by the testimony of medical examiner Choi as to the length of time that Mr. Van Treese survived after Sneed’s attack.
The new report is consistent with Mr. Sneed’s statements that he waited to leave until he saw Mr. Van Treese take his last breath.
At the press conference [on Monday, September 14], Mr. Knight will talk about what this information means to the case against Mr. Glossip, and will provide further details uncovered in this investigation, including new expert reports and a new key witness who will discuss statements made by Mr. Sneed after Mr. Sneed put Mr. Glossip on death row.