Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmate accuse prosecutors of intimidating witnesses
Gurney used for lethal injections (AFP)

Attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate say prosecutors have arrested a key witness who has new evidence and filed a request on Wednesday asking the courts to order the state to stop intimidating witnesses.

The defense team for 52-year-old Richard Glossip, who was convicted of arranging the 1997 murder of the owner of an Oklahoma City motel he was managing, filed the request in a state appeals court.

The attorneys said Michael Scott, who signed an affidavit saying he heard convicted murderer Justin Sneed brag about setting Glossip up for the crime, was arrested on Tuesday on a warrant for a $200 unpaid fine and failure to complete community service connected to a recent drunk driving arrest.

Scott was arrested in Rogers County, but was interrogated by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who serves the county where the murder took place around 100 miles to the southwest, according to the filing.

"Prater specifically told Mr. Scott that he ordered this action so that Scott would be forced to talk with Prater and his investigator," the filing said.

Prater's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Glossip's lawyers have argued that no physical evidence tied their client to the murder of Barry Van Treese. They added that he was convicted largely on the testimony of Sneed, then 19, and the motel's maintenance man, who confessed to carrying out the killing after Glossip hired him to do it.

Sneed avoided the death penalty by testifying against Glossip and is serving a life sentence.

An appeals court threw out a previous conviction, saying evidence against Glossip was "extremely weak." The case went back to a jury in 2004, which found him guilty and upheld the death sentence

Glossip was set to be executed last Wednesday for the murder of motel owner Barry Van Treese, until a last minute stay from the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals stayed the execution and reset the date to Sept. 30.

Glossip's execution would be the first in Oklahoma since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June the use of midazolam, a sedative in the lethal injection procedure, did not violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Michael Perry)