Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Lawyers battling to prevent execution of death row inmate Richard E. Glossip want to block what they call attempts to stymie “innocence witnesses” – individuals who have submitted affidavits raising questions about evidence in the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese.
Attorneys Don Knight, Kathleen Lord and Mark Olive, with the assistance of city lawyer Mark Henricksen, filed a brief in Oklahoma District Court asking “assistance in ensuring that existing innocence witnesses are not intimidated by the State and that additional innocence witnesses not be suppressed and/or intimidated from coming forward by the State.”
Their most significant assertion in the court document is that Rogers County deputies placed Michael Scott, whose affidavit has raised questions about the veracity of Justin Sneed, the admitted killer of Van Treese, under arrest on Wednesday so that then, at the Rogers County jail, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and another man could question Scott about his affidavit. That document is being used in the Glossip case appeal now pending with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
The filing from Glossip’s lawyers also reported that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Joe Tapley, another innocence witness. Glossip, convicted of master-minding Van Treese’s murder by Sneed, has consistently maintained his innocence in the killing for 18 years.
OK-CADP spokesperson Rev. Adam Leathers said, “We at the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are calling upon our police officers, courts, and all of our justice system to be fair and just in the treatment of all of the witnesses involved in this case. If the truth is heard in its entirety, justice will be done.”
Also on Wednesday, the Tulsa World reported that Prater had rebuked many of the claims from Glossip’s lawyers, saying, “The time will come when it will be clear to everyone that everything that the defense lawyers and their witnesses are saying are lies.”
In related news, Glossip’s lawyers say that existing state protocols should not allow his execution to take place on Sept. 30. That is the date the appeals court had set when it granted Glossip’s attorneys another 14 days to work on the case.
Former state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City, now OK-CADP chair said in a comment sent to CapitolBeatOK that what she called Wednesday’s “behind the scenes shenanigans and outright breaking of the law” was informative. “You can’t make this stuff up. It’s straight out of CSI!”