OKLAHOMA CITY — A celebrity psychologist and well-known television personality used his star power on Tuesday to advocate for an Oklahoma death row inmate.
Talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw headlined a rally at the state Capitol to push for Richard Glossip to be freed from death row.
Glossip was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1997 beating death of his boss, Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese. He has long maintained his innocence, arguing he was set up by a motel maintenance man.
Glossip’s supporters are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will vacate his conviction. But members of the Van Treese family are preparing to ask the high court to allow the execution to proceed.
McGraw, who was born in Oklahoma, said a friend from the Innocence Project, which advocates for people believed to be wrongfully convicted, first brought Glossip’s case to his attention.
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Dozens of people, including Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, turned out for the rally at the Capitol. Many held signs saying, “Save Richard Glossip.”
“For him to spend another day on death row, on its face, is injustice,” McGraw said.
Two independent reviews of Glossip’s case have raised questions about his conviction and led Attorney General Gentner Drummond to push for the inmate to get a new trial.
Drummond also asked the Supreme Court to block Glossip’s execution that was scheduled for May 18, a request the court granted. The state’s top prosecutor told justices Glossip’s trial was “unfair and unreliable.”
Former Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Gentner Drummond needs pursue the jury’s decision and accused the AG of providing more fodder to attack the death penalty in general.
Glossip’s attorneys have argued their client was set up by motel worker Justin Sneed, who they say killed Van Treese during a botched robbery and shifted the blame to avoid getting the death penalty himself.
They say new evidence not presented at trial proves their client’s innocence. Both independent reviews have noted some evidence has gone missing or been destroyed.
Members of the Van Treese family said Glossip had his day in court and exhausted his appeals.
The family said it was disappointed the Supreme Court granted a stay in the case. But now they’re working with a University of Utah law professor to file an independent brief asking the justices not to overturn Glossip’s conviction.
“The number of legislators, TV personalities, and the like, supporting a twice-convicted murderer is highly concerning and frankly disappointing,” the family said in a statement. “Because, at the end of the day, according to the law, Richard Glossip is guilty of murder in the first degree.”
Dismissing arguments from people who say Glossip has twice been convicted of murder in two separate trials, McGraw said the jury did the right thing with the information that they had at the time. The jury didn’t have all the information, McGraw said.
He quoted from a letter written by Drummond, who said it would be a “grave injustice” to execute Glossip when errors in the case have resulted in reasonable doubt surrounding his conviction.
“It’s one thing to admit making a mistake,” McGraw said. “It’s another thing to make it right.”
He urged Oklahomans to call Gov. Kevin Stitt and their state legislators on behalf of Glossip.
Robin Sellers of Oklahoma City attended Tuesday’s rally after learning about Glossip’s case a few years ago. The death penalty opponent said she thinks the inmate deserves a new trial so a jury can see evidence that was not presented at trial decades ago.
“I’m someone who believes a fair trial is essential to the things that undergird our democracy,” she said. “I think that where we are now, the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the execution affirms that.”
Glossip has been on death row for about 25 years. He has had nine execution dates and has been mere hours away from being executed on three different occasions.