A Republican state representative who describes himself as a supporter of the death penalty has said he believes death row inmate Richard Glossip is innocent.
Kevin McDugle of Oklahoma was responding to a report from a Houston law firm on the Glossip case.
He said: “We have an individual sitting on death row who has been there for 25 years, and I believe he is completely innocent.”
Glossip, 59, was twice convicted and sentenced to death for ordering the murder of Barry Van Treese, the owner of a motel in Oklahoma City where Glossip worked.
Handyman Justin Sneed admitted to robbing and beating Mr Van Treese in January 1997 but said he only did so after Glossip offered to pay him $10,000. Sneed is serving a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in a motel room.
But law firm Reed Smith, which produced its report for the state of Oklahoma free of charge, said important evidence was lost or destroyed in the Glossip case.
He also said a detective had improperly asked leading questions of Sneed in an attempt to implicate Glossip.
Stan Perry, an attorney for Reed Smith, said: “Our conclusion is that no reasonable juror, hearing the full record and the facts uncovered… would have convicted Richard Glossip of capital murder.”
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The lost evidence included financial records that were destroyed in late 1999 or early 2000, before Glossip’s retrial and after his first conviction and death sentence were overturned.
These could have contradicted the prosecution’s theory that Glossip wanted to conceal his alleged embezzlement at the motel, where he was a manager, and that Mr Van Treese had therefore been killed.
The report adds, “This loss or destruction of evidence appears to be so critical to the defense that it casts serious doubt on the fundamental fairness of the criminal trial against Glossip.”
Mr McDugle led the inquiry and said that while “I believe in the death penalty”, safeguards were needed to protect the innocent.
He called on Glossip to get a new appeals court hearing, adding: “If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty, simply because the process is not pure. “.
Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, said: “In the coming days, Mr. Glossip’s defense team will file a request for a hearing with the Oklahoma Court of Appeals to have this new evidence of innocence can be examined by a court.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who took office after Glossip’s second trial and second death sentence, said he is reviewing the report.
He has previously said he believes Glossip is guilty, after reviewing various pieces of evidence, and would support a new trial for first-degree murder and seek the death penalty again.
Glossip was set for execution in September 2015, but prison authorities had the deadly wrong drug.
After it was revealed that the drugs had been used to execute another inmate, Oklahoma’s executions were suspended.
They resumed in October with the execution of John Grant, who convulsed and vomited before being pronounced dead.
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