We periodically run letters from death row inmates. Today's is from Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip, who came within one day of being executed last month before being (temporarily) spared by the Supreme Court.
Richard Glossip has been on death row for 17 years, after being sentenced to die for the murder of Barry Van Treese, an Oklahoma motel manager. Glossip, however, did not kill Barry Van Treese; a man named Justin Sneed did. Sneed testified that Glossip hired him to kill and rob Van Treese. Glossip says that he is innocent, and that Sneed lied to save himself (he received a life sentence). Justin Sneed's daughter recently wrote a letter urging clemency for Glossip, saying that her father had spoken to her about recanting his testimony about Glossip's role in the crime.
On January 28, the Supreme Court postponed the executions of three Oklahoma inmates, including Richard Glossip, citing problems that the state of Oklahoma has had with its lethal injection procedures. Glossip had been scheduled to be executed the following day. Now, his execution will wait until Oklahoma deals with its deadly chemical issues. The letter to us below is dated January 6, three weeks before Glossip believed he would be put to death. (Some portions of the letter were too long for the scanner, but the full text is typed above each page.) As with all of our death row letters, we present this only to hear the inmate's own voice, and we do not take any position for or against the veracity of the inmate's claims.
January 6, 2015
Dear Mr. Hamilton
Thank for your letter and opportunity to tell my story. I don't know if you have heard about what's going on with me here yet or not. I have been on a hunger strike since being put in the cell I am in now, which is 14 days now. So it is not easy for me at this point to write long letters. So I'm writing a short letter so people can see why I am where I'm at and that I'm innocent. I'm also enclosing a website that your readers can go to to see the whole story and my innocence. I'm also listing another website that will give them the chance to connect and be a party of trying to stop this unjust execution.
January 6th, 2015
I have ended up on death row because of a horrible crime that was committed by (Justin Sneed). I managed a motel here in Oklahoma City where (Mr. Sneed) worked as well. (Mr. Sneed) one night killed the owner of the motel while he was asleep in his room. He came to my room very early in the morning and knocked on my and my girlfriend's door and woke us up. When I answered the door he then told me 2 drunks broke a window and what should he do. I told him to clean it up and that we would deal with it later. Then he says that he had killed the owner (Mr. Vantrese) I look at him and said yeah right. And that's where it was left. I did not believe him. I went back to bed and wasn't awoken again until my normal time by my desk clerk (Billy Hooper). I did my usual rounds to make sure people were doing what they were suppose to and then my girlfriend (D-Anna Wood) and I went to cash my check and go to Wal-Mart. While there we received a call from the desk clerk saying they found (Mr. Vantrese's) car but not him. So we headed back to the motel. When we got there it was kind of crazy. I was told by the desk clerk that the motel had been searched already and nothing. I went into my apartment behind the desk where my girlfriend (D-Anna Wood) was and asked her if I should tell them what (Justin Sneed) had told me and she replied I shouldn't until I knew for sure. Which led to a few bad choices I mad through that day. That was taken the wrong way.
I was taken in and interviewed for a while and then released. After my second interview I was arrested and held until (Mr. Sneed) was arrested. When (Mr. Sneed) was interviewed he repeatedly told detectives that I had nothing to do with it. That it was a robbery gone bad. But after going off camera for 45 minutes (which no one knows what was said except for them) and a deal from the state to save his own life, he then comes back saying I told him to do it. His next story he claimed that I had offered him $7,000 to do what he did. Later it became $10,000. Then he claimed that after he did it, he then went to the car of (Mr. Vantrese) and got what money he had in it and that it was less than $4,000 which he then claimed he split that with me. He also claimed that I had came to him at 2:30 a.m. to ask him to do this. We had a tape from the gas station next door to the motel that clearly showed (Mr. Sneed) there at 2:30 a.m. He then changed that time as well. There has never been any evidence against me (physical or other) to connect me to any of (Mr. Sneed's) accounts of what happened. I was convicted solely on the self serving testimony of (Justin Sneed) who is the sole reason [continues]
I am here on death row.
I was arrest on no evidence at all (physical or other) was held in the county jail for almost 2 years before getting to trial (again I have never been in trouble in my life). My trial went very wrong because of the attorney I had and I was convicted of a crime I did not commit and sent to death row.
After 2 years on death row my case was thrown out by the higher courts because of hearsay testimony, denial of the use of items which would have contradicted the states so called theory of the case and for the job my attorney did, who was disbarred for his actions. The Judges said it wasn't a trial.
I was tried again after 3 years at the county jail. The D.A. who prosecuted my trial, it being her last trial with the D.A.'s office used every trick in the book to convict me.
(1) She was allowed to take large posterboards with partial statements on them and hang them all over the court room in front of the jury and state witnesses throughout my trial.
(2) Was allowed to put on hearsay testimony again by the Tulsa motel manager who said he had had a conversation with the deceased and he told him that the OKC motel was short money. No witnesses or proof that this conversation even took place, and there was no way to cross examine it.
(3) The D.A. was allowed to claim that money was missing from the OKC motel even though the D.A. had informed the courts before my first trial that the paperwork for the time I worked at the motel had been destroyed by a flood. We were denied the chance to prove it wasn't true, but she was allowed to claim it was with no paperwork to prove it.
(4) She was allowed to claim evidence existed that didn't by telling the jury that I must have wiped it away or I wore gloves without any proof that happened. Alls you have to do is look at the crime scene photos to see that would have been impossible. There is no way I could have wiped away my prints and no one else's, should never have been allowed.
In the D.A.'s opening arguments to the jury she admitted to the jury that they had [continues]
no actual evidence against me, just the testimony of the killer (Justin Sneed).
(Justin Sneed) testified against for a deal to save his own life. The D.A. portrayed (Mr. Sneed) as this meek, normally non violent person who was easy to control who I took advantage of. We had a report by the state's own psychiatrist who stated that (Justin Sneed) was a very angry person, prone to acts of violence and hated authority figures (which I would have been to him). We were denied the use of that report to prove that the state lied and misrepresented (Justin Sneed) to the jury.
The judge denied us the right to take a picture of the posterboards so that we would have it in case of appeals to show the courts how they influenced the jury.
There was so much more that the judge allowed that she shouldn't have. There is no way I was given a fair trial by any means. The worse thing about it is that if you don't have money and can't afford a good attorney you have no chance at a fair trial especially in Oklahoma. I was wrongfully convicted and they know it and they still want to execute an innocent man.
You asked about the psychological burden of having a death sentence. This will most likely surprise everyone, but having the death sentence has done nothing to weaken me or has it been a burden on me. It has actually made me stronger and has become a great motivation to me. It makes me get up every day and fight with everything I have to make sure that death isn't going to be the outcome. I've seen people who have not been able to deal with this and the hell it is. But I decided long ago that I would not let it take that toll on me. I will fight with my last breath. I don't fear the future, I just take it one day at a time. When and if that time comes, I will deal with it the same as I have everything.
You asked about the daily life in here. Here on H-Unit things are different than regular prisons. You locked down 23 hours a day. you can go to what they call a yard (a room completely cement with 20 foot high walls with steel grating over the top. You don't see trees, cars, grass, houses etc. You can see the sky but only through the grating). We use to be able to go to yard with other inmates, but about 3 years ago they stopped it. So now you either go by yourself or with your [continues]
cellie. It truly isn't much different than being in your cell so a lot of people don't even bother to go any more. It just seems to be a hassle to go. The days can be long so you do what you can to get through them. Write letters, watch TV, read books. Thank God about 3 years ago they let us buy MP3 players which helped a lot. It is truly sad that getting mail and canteen had become everything you had to look forward to. But it truly was great when it came.
My daily routine before I was moved up to this cell. I would get up every day clean the cell completely, take my shower, eat something simple cookies. Do my Bible study. Then I would listen to my MP3 for a few hours. Then I would start writing letters to everyone I could from Senators (in which I had gotten several letters from John McCain), Judges, reporters and anyone else I could write, then I would watch TV until about 1:00 a.m. then finish the night listening to music. This I did every day.
Now that I am up in the cell I am, I'm not allowed cleaning materials so can't clean the cell, I'm not allowed my MP3 or canteen, or other personal belongings, sweats, razors etc. (This happens 35 days before execution) so you have to eat what they bring you and trust me if you saw that food you would not eat it. My routine now is I get up hungry wanting to clean the cell but can't. I still do my Bible study and then I began my writing for the day, to reporters etc. In the evening I call family and friends. I then watch what I can on TV until 1:00 a.m. and go to bed. Then repeat it the next day.
I don't have a fitness routine. Being on a hunger strike it makes that task difficult.
People in here get along for the most part. It is hard not to now that we have no more contact with each other except for talking through the door, or sending kites (small notes) through the run man who gets out to clean the showers and pod area and to pass out our laundry when it comes back. Up here i have no contact with any other inmates.
About my past I was born in Galesburg, IL where I was raised and grew up. I spent over 20 years there. I was married twice and I have 4 kids. 3 girls, 1 boy. I have worked very hard my whole life and I have always tried [continues]
my best to do the right thing and to help anyone who needed it. I hope that you will go to the website for the complete story of my life. RichardEGlossip.com
You asked if being in jail has changed my political views. Yes they have, after going through this. I have always thought that our government was put in place to protect us from injustices from happening to the American people. Our government has gotten bigger for all the wrong reasons. Our justice system has rapidly gone down hill. How could a justice system in a country like ours allow a man who has never been in trouble in his entire life, no evidence and the fact that the state admits didn't kill anyone, be about to be executed. (It should scare the hell out of everyone that it has and it can to anyone. We have a Supreme Court who says actual innocence is not a reason to stop an execution. That truly blows my mind. Things have to change, we cannot keep wrongfully convicting people and executing innocent people and think that it is ok to do so. Why even have a Supreme Court.
You asked do I have any thoughts on the way the news media in our country cover crimes. My biggest problem with the way the media covers crimes is that the majority are in a hurry to tell the state's side of events and not so much the inmates or accused. When you cover the news and you bring stories to people, they should be allowed to hear both sides of the story not just the state's, which not has a proven track record of wrongful conviction after another. Over the last 10 years so many people have been released from prisons all over this country who it has been proven that prosecutors lied, hid evidence and put what they knew to be false testimony on the stand to convict people. People believe the media, so when they only tell the state's side, it becomes what they believe.
And yes I truly believe it would be a great thing for these issues to get more or different kinds of public attention. It would help more than people know.
I would like to say to everyone here and around the world. I am an innocent man. I have never been in trouble in my entire life. I have always done my best to do the right thing and to always help others. I have always worked very hard since the age of 15 to get everything that I ever had. And now I am in the biggest fight of my life to stop the state of Oklahoma from [continues]
executing an innocent man who they know is innocent. And it should truly scare the hell out of all of us to know that this is happening in a country like ours.
I'm pleading with everyone in this country and around the world to join our fight to stop this from taken place. Please to (RichardEGlossip.com) and sign on there or at (Change.org) Richard Glossip to help stop the execution of an innocent man. My time is getting short so please act now before it is too late.
Richard E. Glossip 267303
[Image by Jim Cooke]