Glossip gets 37 more days, as state examines execution process

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin has issued a 37 day stay of Richard Glossip’s execution to address legal questions raised today about Oklahoma’s execution protocols. 

The stay will give the Department of Corrections and its attorneys the opportunity to determine whether potassium acetate is compliant with the state’s court-approved execution procedures.

“Last minute questions were raised Wednesday about Oklahoma’s execution protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection,” said Fallin. “After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of Corrections, I have issued a 37 day stay of execution while the state addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the protocols approved by federal courts.”

The new execution date will be Friday, November 6.

The governor expressed concerned for the family of Barry Van Treese, the inn-owner who was beaten to death by Justin Sneed in 1997.

“My sincerest sympathies go out to the Van Treese family, who has waited so long to see justice done.”

Sneed is serving a sentence of life without parole. He testified that Glossip paid him to kill Van Treese.

Critics of capital punishment in Oklahoma were ecstatic over the stay. Former state Sen. Connie Johnson said in a statement,

“Our hearts are lightened and spirits encouraged by the Governor’s decision to grant a 37-day stay of execution for Richard Glossip today. While her reasons are less than what we were seeking, the outcome is one for which we are grateful and thankful to God, Who is still in control. Because of today, the need to continue educating Oklahomans about the death penalty’s flaws is greater than ever. Hope springs eternal.”

Johnson is chair of Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP). That group’s spokesman, Rev. Adam Leathers, commented, “We at the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are pleased at the recent 37 stay of execution issued by Governor Fallin regarding issues over the drug cocktail. Although it was not the kind of stay of execution for which we were hoping and we do not agree with Governor Fallin’s position on the death penalty, she should still be commended for doing her due diligence in fulfilling the law.

“At the same time we also keep in our thoughts and prayers, Richard Glossip, his family, and the family of Barry Van Treese, for the emotional roller coaster all of them have undoubtedly experienced…a roller coaster that would consequently be eliminated with the abolishment of the Death Penalty.”

“We are exceedingly grateful that Pope Francis made a request that Governor Fallin commute the life of Richard Glossip,” Leathers added. “This is a testament to how widely this case has spread and how the world will define Oklahoma’s civility by what follows.”

Dale Baich, an attorney who on Glossip’s behalf has challenged Oklahoma’s drug protocols for executions, said in a statement to The City Sentinel, “Today, with literally moments to spare, Oklahoma realized that it wasn’t capable of competently executing Richard Glossip. This is the same state which took over 40 minutes to kill Clayton Lockett, using a similar three-drug protocol that was to be used today. [Wednesday’s] hastily abandoned plans show what happens when states carry out executions in secrecy with unqualified execution team members and no public oversight.

“The same extreme secrecy and culture of carelessness that led to that horrific botched execution also led to a moment today, where, apparently, Oklahoma once again realized something was wrong. Oklahoma has had months to prepare for this execution, and today’s events only highlight how more transparency and public oversight in executions is sorely needed.” 

In a brief comment, Glossip’s lead attorney, Don Knight, said: “The Governor did the right thing.

It is frightening that lethal injection can’t be figured out. Hopefully the extra time will bring us more witnesses who know Justin Sneed is a liar.”

The past-the-last-minute 37-day-hold came after a tumultuous several days for Glossip and everyone connected to the case.

After the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals turned down Glossip’s appeal for new proceedings on a 3-2 vote, Knight and his colleagues pressed their case with the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, the High Court rebuffed the request in an unsigned opinion.

As the scheduled execution neared, Pope Francis wrote to Gov. Fallin, asking for mercy as a way to support life.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt expressed frustration over the delay, with his spokesman saying the state’s top lawyer could not understand why the Department of Corrections was unable to carry out the execution process.

NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.