OKLAHOMA CITY — Attorney General Gentner Drummond has appointed an independent counsel to review the case of a high-profile death-row inmate who claims to be innocent.
Former prosecutor Rex Duncan will review all aspects of the investigation, trial, sentencing and appeals process for Richard Glossip, who is set to be executed for the 1997 beating death of his boss, Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese, Drummond’s office announced Thursday.
Glossip’s attorneys claim that their client was set up by a motel maintenance man who they argue killed Van Treese during a botched robbery and shifted the blame to Glossip to avoid getting the death penalty himself. The maintenance worker, Justin Sneed, confessed to the killing, saying Glossip offered to pay him $10,000 to commit the crime.
Drummond said the independent review will help his office prepare for the clemency hearing that will take place weeks before Glossip’s May 18 execution. The review also will ensure that justice is served for the Van Treese family and the accused, the attorney general said.
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“As my office will represent the State at the clemency hearing, it is my responsibility to ensure that we are appropriately responding to all evidence that has been presented through Mr. Glossip’s conviction and incarceration,” Drummond said in a statement. “Circumstances surrounding this case necessitate a thorough review. While I am confident in our judicial system, that does not allow me to ignore evidence.”
Drummond said he spoke with members of the Van Treese family prior to engaging the independent counsel.
Don Knight, Glossip’s attorney, praised Drummond for appointing an independent counsel.
“From the beginning of our work on this case, all we have asked for is a fair review of all the evidence,” he said in a statement.
Glossip’s attorneys sought a new hearing before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to present new evidence they said would prove that their client is innocent. The appeals court denied that request in November.
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers led by Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, backed the call for a new evidentiary hearing, a request that was not supported by former Attorney General John O’Connor.
Duncan, a retired Oklahoma Army National Guard colonel and former state lawmaker, served as the district attorney for Osage and Pawnee counties from 2011 to 2019.
Glossip has been on death row for more than 20 years and has had his execution date stayed or reprieved multiple times.