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Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip denied clemency

Richard Glossip
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Richard Glossip

Despite an unprecedented amount of support from state officials, a split vote from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board led to no recommendation for clemency for death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Glossip is on death row for hiring an accomplice in the 1997 killing of his boss, motel owner Barry Van Treese.

Prior to the clemency hearing, several state lawmakers pushed for an independent investigation of Glossip’s case. That investigation found several problems with the trial, including the state’s destruction of material evidence and false testimony from the key witness.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond also spoke to the board. His request to vacate or stay Glossip’s execution was recently denied by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

"I’m not aware of any time in our history that an Attorney General has appeared before this board and argued for clemency," said Drummond. "I’m also not aware of any time in the history of Oklahoma when justice would require it."

The Pardon and Parole Board is meant to have five members, but the fifth member, Richard Smothermon, recused himself from this vote. His wife was a prosecutor in Glossip’s 2004 retrial.

Following the hearing, Glossip’s attorneys filed an application for stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court. In that application, attorneys say Drummond does not oppose it.

Glossip’s execution has been delayed five times, three times in 2015 by former Gov. Mary Fallin, once last year by Gov. Kevin Stitt and most recently by a Criminal Appeals judge in January following a request by Drummond's office.

Glossip is scheduled to be executed on May 18.

Oklahoma County changing tactics

During Glossip’s clemency hearing, Drummond said Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna notified him and the Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday night via letter that she would be altering the criteria for what qualifies as a capital case.

“She has written to the board and outlined that she has instituted new procedures and guidelines to the governor for when her office seeks the death penalty,” said Drummond.

The Attorney General said under Behenna’s new guidelines, Glossip would no longer qualify as a capital case.

According to information from the Death Penalty Information Center, Oklahoma County has imposed the most death sentences of any county of its size and has carried out more than twice the executions of any other comparably sized county.

Hannah France is a reporter and producer for KGOU.
Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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