It could happen to you.
I have to think one of the most horrifying things in the world must be to be imprisoned or executed for a crime you didn't commit, particularly in a situation where it is clear to anyone with half a brain that you didn't do it.
With Richard Glossip, there really isn't even a question. Factually, he did not kill anyone and no one has ever said he did. The only evidence against him is the fact that a meth head said, after being told by police that he would be executed unless he said Glossip "hired" him to kill motel owner Barry Van Treese, that Glossip "hired" him to kill motel owner Barry Van Treese.
Earlier this month, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond — a Republican even, a Republican in Oklahoma — recommended that Glossip's conviction be vacated, largely on the grounds that executing a blatantly innocent human being would be pretty bad PR for the death penalty. There was hope, for a moment, that not only would Glossip not be executed, but that he would actually be able to get out of prison and finally get a fair trial.
That hope has now been dashed, as the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected Drummond's recommendation and determined that Glossip must be executed in May.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling said his case “has been thoroughly investigated and reviewed,” with Glossip given “unprecedented access” to prosecutors’ files.
“Yet he has not provided this court with sufficient information that would convince this court to overturn the jury’s determination that he is guilty of first-degree murder and should be sentenced to death,” according to the ruling written by Judge David Lewis. [...]
The court's ruling noted that Drummond, in a statement at the time, said he was not suggesting Glossip is innocent, but only that justice would not be served by executing him "based on the testimony of a compromised witness.”
“The attorney general's ‘concession’ does not directly provide statutory or legal grounds for relief in this case,” according to the ruling[.]
The "sufficient information" should be the video footage of Detective Bob Bemo literally telling Justin Sneed that they know Glossip was involved and that he could avoid the death penalty himself if he said that he was. Or the video footage of Bemo literally saying, out loud, that Glossip's attitude, which he read as "smug," was the reason why he believed Glossip was guilty.
There's also the fact that Justin Sneed's actual daughter has written a letter to the court telling them that her father told her he lied about everything so he could stay in her life. There are the letters Sneed wrote to his attorney about something "eating at him," asking if he had the option to recant his testimony at any point in his life, and the letter his attorney wrote back to him to tell him that if he came forward he would end up on death row.
There are those who have come forward to say that Sneed told them that Glossip was innocent, only to end up with warrants out for their arrest. There is the fact that the DA who prosecuted him had to resign in disgrace after it was discovered that he had produced false evidence in court and frequently bent the rules in order to secure convictions. Eleven people he prosecuted were later found to have been wrongly convicted.
As far as "unprecedented access" goes, Glossip's lawyers are still trying to gain access to evidence that they have been denied, including:
- Surveillance video from the gas station across the street from the motel that none of Glossip’s defense lawyers have ever seen.
- Fingerprints lifted from a shard of glass from Room 102 and from inside Van Treese’s car belonging to someone other than Glossip, Sneed, or Van Treese. These fingerprints have never been searched through databases.
- All evidence taken by police in a search of Sneed’s room that could shed light on who the missing accomplice was.
- All information about the suspicious $23,100 found in the trunk of Van Treese’s car on the morning after the murder. Some of this money had blue dye on it that may have come from a bank robbery.
- Results of an alleged lie detector test prosecutors and police claim Glossip failed. There is no proof one was ever administered.
- Notes from detectives of witness statements that might contradict their later reports and the trial testimony of various witnesses.
AG Gentner has said he will continue to look for a way to keep Glossip from being executed, largely because he knows that executing an obviously innocent person will make people skeptical of whether or not the death penalty is a good idea or not.
“Ensuring the integrity of the death penalty demands complete certainty,” he said in a statement. “I will thoroughly review the ruling and consider what steps should be taken to ensure justice.”
State Rep. Kevin McDugle (Surprisingly A Republican), who has been advocating for Glossip's innocence, has previously said he will seek impeachment for the judges on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals if they ruled against him.
\u201cRe: Glossip case, OK GOP state Rep. Kevin McDugle: \u201cIf they deny this next chance, then I\u2019ll be seeking impeachment for the judges here in the state of Oklahoma because it\u2019s ridiculous to see the evidence in this case and for them to ignore it."\n\nhttps://t.co/7lvQiAe4O1\u201d— Jake Tapper (@Jake Tapper) 1682084325
It will probably not shock you to read that all of the judges on this panel are themselves former prosecutors.
There is still a chance that Glossip may not be executed — he can plead his case to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in hopes that they will convince Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute his death sentence to a life sentence.
If the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is so very convinced of Glossip's guilt, they should not be afraid of giving him a fair trial — which he has twice been denied. They should be more than happy to trot their "evidence" in front of the world and really prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Glossip is guilty and deserves the death penalty.
But they're not.
When the evidence that someone is innocent is as blatant as this (or as blatant as it is in the Crosley Green case), it doesn't just undermine the "integrity" of the death penalty or even of the justice system. The government has an obligation to prove to us that the people being executed, that those sent to prison, are guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," not just because it's cruel to those individual people, but so that we as citizens do not have to walk around fearing that we, too, could be convicted or given the death penalty for a crime that we did not commit. We ought to have a right to that peace of mind, to the hope that mistakes can be corrected.
If Richard Glossip is killed next month for a crime he did not commit, none of us has any reason to believe that we could not just as easily be a victim of a miscarriage of justice just as egregious, with no hope of rectifying the situation. And we should not have to live like that.
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It's your Post-Arraignment Sunday show rundown!
This year, instead of the rise of a zombie messiah, we had some other things appear on Easter. So let's dive right into the Sunday shows and marvel at these very undesirable peeps.
Trusty The Clown
We briefly mentioned one of Donald Trump's lawyers, James Trusty, last week. But he really grabbed our attention in his appearance's this week on NBC's "Meet The Press" and ABC's "This Week."
Trusty, who's representing Trump in his whole dragon-like documents hoarding case, tried to defend his client by using a defense that he clearly won't make in court. Trusty kept trying to make a false equivalence between Trump's lying, hoarding, and obstruction versus President Joe Biden's transparent attempts at cooperation regarding classified documents.
It was so ludicrously stupid, in fact, that Chuck Todd's long dead journalistic spirit rose briefly from its grave.
TODD: [...] In this case, not only is he [Trump] not cooperating, he is actively not cooperating. And, again, he did not comply with the subpoena. That’s – the end of the day, that’s the obstruction charge. Why didn't he comply with the subpoena? There was a subpoena for all classified documents. He did not comply with the subpoena. He was caught not complying with the subpoena because of the — the search warrant ending up turning up more classified documents. How do you explain him defying a subpoena?
TRUSTY: Chuck, the Democratic narrative, which you're touting right now to try to draw a distinction —
TODD: It's just a set of facts.
TRUSTY: Well, let me finish. Let's —
TODD: I mean, why call it a Democratic narrative? It's a set of facts.
TRUSTY: Because you're ignoring —
TODD: He defied a subpoena.
TRUSTY: You’re ignoring a set of facts. Let's talk about Delaware. You've got a vice president that has documents for decades in these — in this Chinese-funded Penn Biden Center, right? You've got absolute obstruction there because we don't even have any sort of —
TODD: How is that obstruction?
TRUSTY: Because he had no right to have those documents. He didn't have any ability —
TODD: Right. And did he refuse to turn them over when he found them?
TRUSTY: Well, I don't know. It was hidden for so many months.
I'm not an attorney, though Wonkette has some very brilliant ones who write for us, but I'm pretty sure that "but they broke the law, too" might not be a great defense in court. But to answer Trusty's very dumb question: No, Biden did not refuse to turn anything over and has been as cooperative as possible with NARA to comply with proper archiving and record keeping. That, in essence, is the difference. Because as much as Trump likes mentioning Nixon's $18 million payment for records, which Todd also pointed out he said in that Sean Hannity interview, the former president and his lawyers seem to miss the lesson from Watergate: The cover-up is always worse than the crime.
On "This Week," Trusty was asked about Trump's targeting of the judge's family overseeing his case and tried to excuse it.
TRUSTY: I don’t have any experience with this judge, and, again, my practice as somebody who has been in the criminal justice lane for about 35, 36 years is to not, you know, jump on to any bandwagon when it comes to criticizing. I think the criticisms of the family were not something personal. It was pointing that they have a bias. That they have a political interest that is contrary to President Trump’s.
If Trusty wants to talk about biases and political conflicts involving judges, we have a neat story involving some Nazi memorabilia. That said, considering his zealot followers and that whole case involving a certain day in January 2021, maybe it would be best if a criminal defendant did not put innocent people in harm to intimidate a judge.
Lowering The Barr Again
ABC's "This Week" with Jonathan Karl had on Bill Bar, the former attorney general and the answer to "what would happen if Carl Fredricksen became evil like his idol?"
If you are feeling deja vu from last week, it's understandable. Barr even tried making the same point again about the New York state case being a political prosecution.
BARR: Well, it's a crime — falsifying a business record is a crime if it is part of a fraudulent scheme, if it was a fraud, it was committed in the course of fraud. And I don't see anywhere specified in here exactly what the fraud was.
Based on this and his Mueller Investigation summary, are we sure Barr has decent reading comprehension?
Unlike Trusty, Barr could at least point out the obvious bad strategy of criticizing/targeting the judge and prosecution on his case.
BARR: I don't think it’s appropriate or wise. I mean, the president is notoriously -- lacks self-control and he frequently gets himself into trouble with these midnight tweets and other things. The thing with the baseball bat, for example, was very imprudent of him to do in the middle of the night, and, you know, these are gratuitous comments and aren’t particularly helpful. [...] the president, unfortunately, has a penchant for engaging in reckless and -- and self-destructive behavior that brings these kinds of things on him. In many respects, he is his only -- he's his own worst enemy. [...] And also on the January 6th stuff. That was reckless behavior that was destined to end up being investigated. So it doesn't surprise me that he has all of these legal problems.
But if you think Barr cares for our country, it's made clear his real fear is the idiocy of the Republican base.
BARR: [...] I think part of the reasoning behind it is that they know this is a red flag to a big portion of Trump's base. And that they're going to rally to him because they feel that this is persecution. And that will strengthen Trump's hand throughout the process. I also think though, as far as the general election is concerned, it will gravely weaken Trump. He is already, I think, a weak candidate that would lose. But I think this sort of assures it.
The prospect of Republican primary voters continuing to elect the worst general election candidates is honestly the most schadenfreude ending for a political party's viability since the Whigs.
Have a week.
If Pardoning People Who Kill Black Lives Matter Protesters Is Wrong, Greg Abbott Doesn't Want To Be Right
If only he could pardon some people who aren't actually guilty.
James Reyos has been in prison since 1983, convicted of having killed the priest who raped him. It took until 2022 for investigators to actually test fingerprints found at the scene, belonging to the actual murderers. He's still in prison waiting to hear back from a judge.
Garland "Butch" Martin was convicted of killing his entire family in a house fire that occurred while he was out of town. The techniques used to investigate the fire have since been discredited, and it is highly likely that the fire occurred spontaneously and not as a result of arson. He, too, is still in prison, waiting to hear back from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Nine years after the body of sex worker Bobbie Sue Hill was found in a creek in Parker County, Texas, a witness to the crime was put under hypnosis and gave a description of the killer to a sketch artist. The sketch, which looked entirely different from sketches drawn at the time, was then "aged" nine years and ended up looking like a guy named Larry Driskell. Driskell was brought in for questioning by Texas Rangers and kept in custody for several days until he eventually "confessed." His "confession" did not match details of the crime and he rescinded it almost immediately afterwards, but he was nevertheless taken into jail and kept there for two and a half years until he finally agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a 15-year sentence. The Innocence Project of Texas has since successfully convinced the Parker County District Attorney’s office to at least test some of the crime scene evidence for DNA ... and I guess we'll see how that one will turn out.
Those are the stories of just three of the people who are in prison in Texas for crimes they almost definitely did not commit. Unlike these men, we know for a fact that Uber driver/US Army Sergeant Daniel S. Perry killed 28-year-old Garrett Foster at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Austin, Texas in 2020.
Perry doesn't deny it, though he and his lawyers maintain it was done in self defense, because Foster had been carrying an AR-15 while approaching Perry's vehicle — though witnesses say the gun was at no point pointed towards Perry. Prior to killing Foster, Perry wrote on social media that he just might “kill a few people on my way to work; they are rioting outside my apartment complex.”
On Friday, a jury found Perry guilty of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
On Saturday, (a person who may or may not be*) Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement on Twitter announcing that he would like the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend a pardon for Perry so that he can grant him one.
Texas has one of the strongest "Stand Your Ground" laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney.
Unlike the President or some other states, the Texas Constitution limits the Governor's pardon authority to only act on a recommendation by the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Texas law DOES allow the Governor to request the Board of Pardons and Paroles to determine if a person should be granted a pardon.
I have made that request and instructed the Board to expedite its review. I look forward to approving the Board's pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.
Additionally, I have already prioritized reining in rogue District Attorneys, and the Texas Legislature is working on laws to achieve that goal.
By this, Abbott is likely referring to a bill recently introduced by Texas Republican legislators meant to force progressive attorneys to prosecute abortion cases whether they want to or not.
What Gov. Abbott is doing here is essentially saying that the Travis County District Attorney’s office and juries in the area are just too liberal to do their jobs or function the way they are supposed to, and if they don't prosecute the people he wants them to prosecute or give passes to the people he agrees with politically, he will override them and do what he wants anyway — probably because of how much he loves small government.
Clearly, he wants to send a message that he is okay with people going fully homicidal so long as they are only killing left-wing protesters.
If it were up to me, we would handle all crimes in a more effective way than just throwing people in horrific prisons for a certain amount of time and expecting them to come out unscathed, but we do not currently live in a country where that is a thing. Given this, it seems like it would at least make a whole lot more sense for Abbott to focus his energy on people who actually did not do the crimes they have been convicted of before pursuing a pardon for some nut who was obviously out on the town trying to kill some protesters.
But it's Greg Abbott, so that's probably not ever going to happen.
*As Twitter verification no longer means anything, we cannot say for sure that any particular tweet comes from any particular person.
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On January 7, 1997, just outside of Oklahoma City, a 19-year-old maintenance worker with a meth problem named Justin Sneed brutally murdered Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn where he worked. He then went to the room of Richard Glossip, the live-in manager of the motel, told him some story about drunks breaking a window, and then said that he killed Van Treese. Glossip thought Sneed was fucking with him and went back to sleep. But the next morning, Van Treese's body was found at the foot of the waterbed in Room 102.
Detectives Bob Bemo and Bill Cook, who interviewed Glossip after the body was discovered, didn't like his attitude, so when they finally brought Sneed in, they more or less told him that he could escape the death penalty if he said that Glossip hired him to do it. There is actual video footage of this. Sneed, being a meth addict, came up with a bizarre and convoluted story about how Glossip had pressured him for months to kill Van Treese — both because Glossip was "embezzling" money from the motel (he was not) and because he thought if Barry Van Treese were dead, Mrs. Van Treese would put Glossip in charge of all of the motels they owned and let Sneed run one as well. Sneed, who regularly stole from visitors at the motel to feed his drug habit, said that Glossip told him that if he murdered Van Treese, they could split the money Van Treese had with him in his car.
In another version of the story, also concocted by the brilliant Detective Bob Bemo, Sneed didn't even intend to kill Van Treese and things simply went awry when he was trying to rob him — which really doesn't comport with the whole "murder for hire" thing.
As a result of Sneed's story, not one other iota of evidence, some egregiously ineffective counsel, and the state literally withholding an entire box of exculpatory evidence from Glossip's very ineffective counsel ("Box 8") , Richard Glossip was found guilty of a "murder for hire" plot and sentenced to death. Twice. He's had several execution dates, all of which have been postponed for one reason or another. He was scheduled again to be put to death on May 18 of this year.
However, following an independent investigation, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has filed a motion to vacate Glossip's conviction.
“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.
“After thorough and serious deliberation," Drummond explained, "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.”
This is just ... incredibly good news.
Now, Glossip is not entirely free just yet, but as long as the conviction is successfully vacated, he will get another trial, at which the evidence can be presented and other witnesses can testify — including, perhaps, Justine Sneed, Justin Sneed's daughter, who has actual letters from her father talking about how he feels guilty and wants to confess but is afraid he'll get the death penalty if he does.
Hopefully, with all of the attention that is now on this case, the court won't be able to pull any of the shenanigans it did last time, like forcing Glossip to replace the lawyers who had been working on his case (by claiming they had "threatened" Sneed) with someone with absolutely no prior knowledge of it right before the trial started.
It will be wonderful if Glossip gets out now, but he's spent over 20 years of his life behind bars for deeply stupid reasons, and that should scare the absolute shit out of every one of us. Because if it can happen to him, it can happen to you.
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