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Thoughts on The Richard Glossip Case

Oct 02, 2015

As a criminal defense attorney, most of my clients oppose the death penalty.  Likewise, I personally believe it is an ineffective deterrent and has outlived its usefulness.  That being said, it is still widely used by our society as a method of punishing certain crimes.  The death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous of acts, and only when the evidence of guilty is absolute.

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of media attention on our state related to the execution of Richard Glossip.  I do not know the entire record and my knowledge is limited to the coverage that has been in the media.  However, if even a small portion of what has been reported is true, at a minimum, Mr. Glossip's sentence should be commuted to life.

Mr. Glossip faces death for his part in a murder almost twenty years ago.  The basis of his conviction: the uncorroborated testimony of the person that actually committed to crime, Mr. Sneed.  Mr. Sneed testified against Mr. Glossip and received a life sentence without possibility of parole.  A jury found Mr. Glossip guilty and sentenced him to die.  Since the trial, there is an indication that evidence may exist that suggests Mr. Sneed lied to get a reduced sentence, and that Mr. Glossip may not have been involved in the murder.  Despite this potentially exculpatory evidence, the Courts have denied a new trial.  The Governor did grant a stay of execution, but only because of erros in  the execution protocols.

I have a friend who is a retired prosecutor.  He has prosecuted capital cases.  He once told me that he would only prosecute a capital case when he knew beyond ALL doubt that the defendant was guilty.  A reasonable doubt was not good enough.  There have been instances where people have been wrongfully convicted and maybe even put to death based on bad evidence.  Whether there was perjured testimony, the eye witness accounts turned out to be unreliable, or DNA excluded  the person after years in prison, I think that if our government is going to sentence people to die, that we should be absolutely sure of their guilt.

There have been many cases were people convicted of crimes have been set free in light of newly discovered evidence.  Imagine if those individuals had been executed.  We can let wrongfully convicted people out of prison.  We cannot bring them back from the dead.  So if there is even the smallest chance of innocence, does conscience not dictate exercising prudence and not commit an act that cannot be undone?

Robert S. Williams

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