Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has filed a motion to vacate the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip.
The motion was filed with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals three days after the Independent Counsel submitted his findings from the comprehensive review ordered by Drummond. While the report did not declare Glossip is innocent, it documented multiple instances of error that cast doubt on the conviction, even though many of these issues have been previously addressed by the OCCA.
“The State has reached the difficult conclusion that justice requires setting aside Glossip’s conviction and remanding the case to the district court,” states the April 6 motion.
Drummond said his final decision in this matter is based on a careful consideration of the law and what he deemed is in the best interests of justice.
“After thorough and serious deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot stand behind the murder conviction and death sentence of Richard Glossip,” he said. “This is not to say I believe he is innocent. However, it is critical that Oklahomans have absolute faith that the death penalty is administered fairly and with certainty. Considering everything I know about this case, I do not believe that justice is served by executing a man based on the testimony of a compromised witness.”
Glossip has been on Oklahoma’s death row for nearly 25 years. He was initially charged with accessory to murder on Jan. 15, 1997, after the murder of his boss, Barry Van Treese. A co-worker of Glossip’s confessed to beating Van Treese to death in an Oklahoma City motel room. As part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, the co-worker testified that Glossip offered to pay him for the killing.
As a result, Glossip was charged and eventually convicted of first-degree murder in 1998. The co-worker, who was the prosecution’s key witness against Glossip and the murderer of Van Treese, was convicted and received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals later overturned Glossip’s conviction for ineffective assistance of counsel. He was convicted and sentenced to death again at a 2004 retrial.
With the Glossip case long dogged by doubt and controversy, Drummond sought answers shortly after taking office. He quickly learned that the State had long withheld a box of materials from Glossip’s defense team. Drummond promptly provided access to those materials, referred to as “Box 8,” and appointed an Independent Counsel to conduct a comprehensive review of the case. Box 8, and the findings from that review, formed much of the basis for the State’s motion to vacate Glossip’s conviction and remand to the district court.
Drummond said he cannot imagine the pain and anxiety that a development like this must cause the Van Treese family.
“My heart truly goes out to the Van Treese family, who have been waiting decades for a final measure of justice,” Drummond said. “The family and friends of Barry Van Treese have been in pain for 26 years, and what they have lost cannot be restored. I hope and pray that one day they will find peace.”
The motion can be read here.
The Independent Counsel report can be read here.