An Oklahoma state representative has called for an investigation into the practices of the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office following additional revelations that county prosecutors deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence and manufactured false testimony to secure a conviction and death sentence against Richard Glossip in his 2004 retrial.

At a news conference on September 22, 2022, the fourth date Oklahoma had set to execute Glossip, State Representative Justin Humphrey (R–Lane, pictured) called the prosecution’s conduct in the case “extremely unethical.” “This is unacceptable,” Humphrey said. “You’re looking at taking a person’s life, which makes you no better than a murderer. … I want to call for an investigation.”

Humphrey, who describes himself as “a strong proponent” of capital punishment, said that he initially “was very reluctant” to become involved in Glossip’s case. “Now I’m at the point we’re investigating the wrong people,” Humphrey said. “I don’t think that we should just let this go. … This is unacceptable. … Why would you do that? Why would you manufacture evidence?”

The news conference was held in connection with supplemental petition filed by Glossip’s lawyers in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals presenting documentation that Oklahoma County prosecutors had withheld evidence that Justin Sneed, their lead witness in the case, had wanted to recant his testimony implicating Glossip in the 1997 murder of motel owner Barry Van Treese, but that Sneed feared doing so would jeopardize a plea deal that had spared him the death penalty for the murder. The prosecution files, which defense counsel were able to view for the first time on September 1, 2022, contained notes regarding a series of meetings between trial prosecutor Connie Pope, Sneed, and his lawyer Gina Walker concerning this issue.

Pope’s co-counsel Gary Ackley told investigators for the law firm Reed Smith — whom legislators retained pro bono to conduct an independent review of the case — that he was never told about Sneed’s desire to recant or negotiate a better deal for himself. “Any prosecutor would be concerned about any cooperating witness in any big case regarding the uncertainty of the waffling back and forth and the disingenuous bad faith nature of such actions,” adding that this evidence clearly had to be disclosed to the defense.

The petition also presented evidence long hidden in the prosecution’s case file that Pope lied to the court, withheld evidence of numerous improper pretrial and midtrial communications with Sneed, violated a witness sequestration order, and manufactured false testimony from Sneed to plug holes in the prosecution case that had developed during the trial.

Sneed had testified at Glossip’s first trial that Glossip had hired him to kill Van Trees and that, acting alone, he had beaten Van Treese to death using only a baseball bat. During the retrial, medical testimony established that Van Treese also had been stabbed and that the distinctive blade of a pocketknife found under Van Treese body could have caused those wounds. When the defense finally obtained access to the prosecution file, they discovered a midtrial letter from Pope to Sneed’s lawyer that there “are a few items that have been testified to that I needed to discuss with Justin,” and that “[o]ur biggest problem is still the knife.” Sneed then changed his account of the murder to comport with the medical testimony, claiming that he also had stabbed Van Treese, and Pope feigned surprise to the court when the defense accused her of a discovery violation for failing to reveal the full scope of Sneed’s anticipated testimony.

Glossip’s petition stressed the exculpatory nature of the evidence relating to the knife. “If Sneed did not use the pocketknife, then somebody else must have been inside the room, and that flatly contradicted the state’s case that rested on Sneed’s account of committing the murder alone,” counsel wrote. During the press conference, Glossip’s lead counsel, Don Knight, said that the prosecutor’s deliberate violation of the sequestration order to supply information to Sneed “calls into serious question the reliability of his testimony. That information was known by the prosecution since 2004, never turned over to the defense at all. … Not only did the prosecution destroy evidence, they manufactured evidence. They changed people’s testimony. They broke the rules, all to try to get a conviction against Rich Glossip on a death penalty case that should never have been brought at all.”

No physical evidence connects Glossip to Van Treese’s murder and, insisting on his innocence, he turned down a plea deal at his trial for a parole-eligible life sentence. His conviction and death sentence rested primarily on the repeatedly changing accounts of the murder provided by Sneed. Multiple witnesses have since come forward with evidence that Sneed falsely implicated Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty.

In February 2022, a bipartisan group of 35 Oklahoma legislators engaged pro bono attorneys at Reed Smith to review the case. While the firm’s review was underway, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor filed a motion with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on June 10, 2022 seeking execution dates for 25 Oklahoma death-row prisoners, including Glossip. Reed Smith issued its report five days later, documenting that prosecutors had destroyed key exculpatory records in advance of Glossip’s retrial and concluding that no reasonable jury presented with all the evidence would have convicted him. The firm’s continuing investigation into the case has produced even more evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and Glossip’s likely innocence, which it released in supplemental reports issued on August 9, August 23, and September 20, 2022.

In two orders issued on July 1, the court granted O’Connor’s request to set the execution dates, scheduling Glossip’s execution for September 22. With his execution date pending, Glossip filed a petition in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals seeking a new trial based on the initial Reed Smith report. Governor Kevin Stitt temporarily stayed Glossip’s execution on August 16, 2022, to provide the appeals court time to determine whether to grant Glossip a hearing on his innocence claim and rescheduled Glossip’s execution for December 8, 2022.

Two-thirds of Oklahoma’s legislators, led by Republican State Representative Kevin McDugle, sent a letter to Attorney General John O’Connor urging him to support Glossip’s request for a new hearing. O’Connor declined and is continuing to oppose granting Glossip an opportunity to present evidence to the court.

“I’m not afraid to have a hearing,” Knight said at the press conference. “I think the state is afraid to have a hearing. They just want to kill this man.”


Liliana Segura and Jordan Smith, Oklahoma Lawmaker Calls For Investigation Of Prosecutors Who Convicted Richard Glossip, The Intercept, September 23, 2022; Nolan Clay, Death row inmate Richard Glossip accus­es pros­e­cu­tor of fla­grant mis­con­duct at retri­al, The Oklahoman, September 23, 2022; Natalie Clydesdale, Lawmaker calls out DA over new Glossip evi­dence, KFOR News4, Oklahoma City, September 22, 2022; Jordan Tidwell, Glossip’s Attorney Says Uncovered Evidence In Death Row Case Requires New Hearing, KOTV News on 6, Tulsa, September 222022.

Read Richard Glossip’s sup­ple­men­tal appli­ca­tion for post-con­vic­tion relief.