Oklahoma is set on Wednesday to execute a man who was convicted of hiring a hit man to murder the owner of a motel, despite the objections of the death row inmate’s lawyers who say they have evidence that points to his innocence.
Oklahoma plans to put Richard Glossip to death by lethal injection at 3 p.m. local time at its death chamber in McAlester. Glossip, 52, was found guilty of arranging the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of an Oklahoma City motel that Glossip was managing.
His lawyers said no physical evidence tied Glossip to the crime and he was convicted largely on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who confessed to carrying out the killing and said Glossip hired him to do it.
Sneed is serving a life sentence and avoided the death penalty by testifying against Glossip.
The lawyers presented new statements from jail house informants who said that Sneed confessed to setting Glossip up so that he could avoid a death sentence.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday denied a request to halt the execution, saying in a majority decision it found the evidence was neither new nor compelling enough to merit postponing the execution..
Glossip’s lawyers have launched motions in federal courts to halt the execution.
“The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing,” his lawyers wrote in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.
An Oklahoma appeals court had thrown 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.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, said Glossip was rightly convicted by two juries and deserves to die for his crime.
Glossip tried to stop his execution by saying one of the drugs used in the state’s lethal injection mix can cause undue suffering.
If carried out, 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.
Lawyers for Glossip and other Oklahoma death-row inmates had challenged midazolam, saying it could not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and was therefore unsuitable for executions.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Heide Brandes; Editing by Nick Macfie)