On April 30, 2024, a week after the parties in Glossip v. Oklahoma filed merits briefs at the United States Supreme Court, several amici filed briefs in support of the parties’ joint position, asking the Court to grant Richard Glossip (pictured) a new trial. Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia Attorney General and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump, said in his brief that the consequences of failing to overturn Mr. Glossip’s conviction are “most dire.” During his tenure as Virginia’s Attorney General, Mr. Cuccinelli’s office “routinely reviewed convictions to ensure that defendants were not wrongfully convicted—with a special emphasis on capital convictions.” When these investigations proved that prosecutorial misconduct had a role in securing a conviction, Mr. Cuccinelli “fulfilled his office’s duty to pursue justice by confessing error…” Mr. Cuccinelli says that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ “facile dismissal of [AG Drummond’s] confession could force the State to execute Petitioner Richard Glossip notwithstanding the State’s admission that his constitutional rights were violated. The injustice of such a result is impossible to overstate.”

Mr. Glossip has spent more than two decades on Oklahoma’s death row for the 1997 murder-for-hire of Barry Van Treese. In 2022, the state acknowledged that his conviction was secured by eliciting false testimony and suppressing evidence, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has refused to grant Mr. Glossip relief. In his brief to the Supreme Court, AG Drummond stated that while he firmly believes that Mr. Glossip’s rights were violated and that the OCCA’s ruling was a “flawed whitewashing of federal constitutional violations”, he still believes that Mr. Glossip is guilty. In the brief filed by Mr. Glossip’s attorneys, they allege that the OCCA erred in rejecting the confession of error from AG Drummond’s office and when it held that the prosecutorial misconduct was immaterial to the case outcome.

Additional amici arguing in support of a new trial include Oklahoma Republican state representatives Kevin McDugle and Justin “JJ” Humphrey, state senators David Bullard and Blake Stephens, and former senator Gary Mize, all of whom were members of the legislative committee formed to investigate Mr. Glossip’s case. Although these men indicated their strong belief in the use of capital punishment, they argued that they “also believe that a death sentence should be carried out only subject to the strict constitutional and other legal protections that apply to all criminal defendants, especially those against whom the State seeks to impose the most severe and final punishment–death.” The legislators describe the “appalling misconduct” that was uncovered more than two decades after Mr. Glossip’s conviction. “The grave doubts that plague Richard Glossip’s conviction and death sentence requires this Court’s intervention and a new trial. A contrary result would erode the public’s confidence in the justice system and cast doubt on the death penalty more generally,” the brief stated.

Another amicus brief was filed by former members of the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, chaired by former Governor Brad Henry and former U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Lester. The Commission was created in 2016 to review the state’s capital punishment system and in 2017 released a report on their findings, outlining 45 recommendations for reform. In their amicus brief, the commissioners discuss the “myriad problems” in Oklahoma’s death penalty system, many of which “undermine the integrity of [Mr. Glossip’s] conviction.” Among these recommendations, the commissioners identified “topics including forensics, innocence protection, the role of prosecutors and defense counsel, the judicial process, death eligibility, and the execution process.” Mr. Glossip’s case “powerfully exemplifies the concerns the Commission identified with administration of the death penalty in Oklahoma.

The ACLU, ACLU of Oklahoma, and the Howard University School of Law’s Civil Right Clinic also filed an amicus brief supporting a new trial for Mr. Glossip. The groups argue that the US Supreme Court must reverse the OCCA’s ruling and correct “endemic” legal misconduct by Oklahoma prosecutors. “Mr. Glossip’s case cries out for Brady and Napue relief and a clear message from the Court that violations of their core principles will not be tolerated,” they wrote.


Katie Buehler, Justice Told Error Admission Merits Respect in Capital Case, Law360, April 302024.