A Quaker and a Conservative agree with: “Dr. Phil” and each other on this much: Richard Glossip should not be on Oklahoma’s death row
Oklahoma City – Nationwide scrutiny of the case surrounding Richard Glossip, an Oklahoma death row inmate, renewed this week. The popular daytime program, “Dr. Phil” updated its coverage of the controversial murder conviction facing Glossip for the 1997 death of inn-keeper Barry Van Treese.
Glossip has nearly been executed three times – itself an example of the state’s troubled death penalty process. Dr. Phil used archival footage and recent interviews with Glossip and his defenders to underscore the case for his actual innocence in the killing.
In sum, prosecutors argued Glossip had planned the killing of his boss (van Treese) at an Oklahoma City motel, and that he recruited Justin Sneed to carry out the brutal murder. As the years have passed, doubts about the aptness of the conviction and the sentence have increased.
Among the many critics of the process is state Representative Justin Humphrey, a conservative Republican from Lane. At the popular Oklahoma City restaurant “Rococo,” a group gathered as Humphrey hosted (on behalf of his colleague, Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow), a Dr. Phil “watch party.”
McDugle hosted a similar event in the Tulsa area. (https://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/cbok-mcdugle-to-host-watch-parties-on-glossip-dr-phil-segment-10-20-21/ )
In an interview after the program aired, CapitolBeatOK asked Humphrey how constituents in his district have reacted to his advocacy for Glossip.
He replied, “This is not something that’s reached a lot of people in Oklahoma. As a law enforcement person in Oklahoma I know the attitude that many have, that one case or another has had a lot of appeals and been looked at over and over, ‘he’s had all his changes, and our job is to carry out justice.’”If we have a case where there is new evidence, my question is why not look at that new evidence? The reluctance to do so makes me wonder why.”
The reference to new evidence was a wave of sworn affidavits from individuals who served time with Sneed (who served 15 years of a 30-year sentence for carrying out the killing).
Sneed was spared execution, and secured his early release, in return for testimony asserting Glossip planned the murder.
Over several years, multiple sources have now related sworn testimony shredding much of the basis for the conviction. (https://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/attorney-don-knight-saying-richard-glossip-is-innocent-points-to-a-web-of-doubt/ )
Rep. Humphrey said, “We should be willing to take a fresh look if there are reasons to do so. In this case, there were no witnesses. The person who actually killed the victim was one who got a good deal.“ I wonder why a well-known meth addict [Sneed] would be overlooked, while a man with no criminal record became the person that [police] looked at. The testimony provided by Sneed [at trial] was self-serving. Was anyone really questioned by police other than Sneed and Glossip?”
The Dr. Phil broadcast included exchanges with Bob Bemo, a retired Oklahoma City police officer who asserted Glossip gave contradictory answers during police questioning in 1997 and seemed nervous in his exchanges with officers. In the Oct. 22 broadcast, Glossip countered Bemo’s description of their exchanges all those years ago.
As for Rep. Humphrey, he reflected, “My experience is that everyone arrested by police is nervous after they are arrested. That’s the majority of people. … [S]ome of those who worked the case had credibility issues. And that office as a whole that prosecuted the case had some issues going on. The investigation itself was terrible. There is a lack of evidence pointing at the man ultimately convicted. There was no witness to the crime itself.”
Humphrey continued, “One man is on death row, and the actual killer is not. The actual killer implicated someone else. I don’t see how that fits the definition of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ I think a reasonable person looking at the case would say there are reasons to doubt if they convicted the right person.” I went from being reluctant to looking at (the case), to being interested in the details of the case, to being convinced that Richard Glossip should not be on death row, to presently wondering if he should even be in the penitentiary.”
Rex Friend of Oklahoma City, who describes himself as “a Quaker activist with a law degree,” watched the Dr. Phil segment sitting near Rep. Humphrey.
Friend told CapitolBeatOK, “I thought the Dr. Phil program was good, but I recognize it’s late in the game — the legal process – for stopping the steps toward execution of Richard Glossip. The legislators who want to save his life need to speak up for all this understanding of innocence to have an impact.”
He continued, “All of the points made in the program and in the work of the lawyers are well-documented that it is difficult to reach any other conclusion other than that he is, at the very least, not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard that must be set for this penalty.”
Asked to summarize his position on the Glossip case and the Death Penalty more broadly, Friend said, “I would like to stress along with my Catholic abolitionist friends that we oppose all executions because we are all created in the image of God – and that ultimate dignity of human life means that nothing should result in the taking of a human life, even if it is legal.”
Friend is, among other examples of community involvement, a member of the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty (OK-CADP).
Much of the October 22 Dr. Phil program highlighted the new exonerating evidence that Don Knight, pro bono attorney for Glossip, and his paralegal Meri Wright have gathered over the last six years. Wright at one point stressed, “we have twice as many affidavits” with new evidence as to the total number of people interviewed in the original investigation. (https://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/don-knight-attorney-for-death-row-prisoner-richard-glossip-says-district-attorney-david-prater-is-withholding-evidence/ )
During Friday’s broadcast, Dr. Phil also drew forth from Glossip reflections on the years he has missed “watching my kids grown up.” Rep. McDugle and Justin Jackson, a legislative candidate, explained to the television host their involvement in support of Glossip’s innocence. Also featured in the Dr. Phil segment was Jordan Smith, a reporter with The Intercept, who outlined the results of some of her investigations into the case.
The program included archival discussions with Sister Helen Prejean (Glossip’s spiritual advisor) and actress Susan Sarandon, perhaps the best-known defender of Glossip and persistent advocates for his actual innocence. (https://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/analysis-praying-and-working-for-a-miracle-sister-prejean-and-death-penalty-foes-assert-glossips-innocence/ ) Jason Flom discussed his research and podcast work, which has led to some exonerations of wrongfully convicted persons.
Late in the program, Dr. Phil expressed his support for the Van Treese family, saying he understood the desire to see someone punished for the murder. But he said another tragedy would be for an innocent man to die for a crime he did not commit.
In the post-program interview, Rep. Humphrey told CapitolBeatOK.com, “We are asking for an independent investigation to see if in fact more work is needed. I think that such a fresh look clearly indicates that some action might be taken that could take him off of death row and possibly out of prison.”
He acknowledged, “District Attorneys insist their job is to carry out justice. I understand that. I think many of them, if they dig in on the case, would support taking a fresh look.