For more than 23 years, Richard Glossip has been sitting on death row in an Oklahoma prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.
In fact, dozens of state lawmakers — many of them of Republicans who support the death penalty — agree with him.
“Over 40 Republican state legislators have written to the governor and other people, saying that while they are in favor of the death penalty, not this time, that this guy is innocent,” says Jason Flom, a music executive who advocates for the innocent on his podcast Wrongful Conviction.
In 1997, a 19-year-old Glossip was arrested in connection with the killing of a man named Barry Van Treese, who was beaten to death with a baseball bat in an Oklahoma motel.
A man named Justin Sneed confessed to the murder, but told investigators that Glossip, the motel’s handyman at the time, paid him to commit the murder, according to The Washington Post.
After striking a plea deal, Sneed received a sentence of life in prison without parole, while Glossip was sentenced to the death penalty.
Last year, lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, which stated new evidence found by his team casts serious doubts over Glossip’s conviction, according to TV station KOKH.
“I’m 100% confident myself that he is an innocent man that we’ve got on death row,” Republican Rep. Kevin McDugle wrote. “We have had people on death row in Oklahoma before who were innocent and that’s all we’re saying is, let’s make sure before we put this guy to death.”
But Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board says not only do they not have the authority or ability to re-open an investigation into Glossip’s case, they might not even be able to give him a second clemency hearing, the station reported.
Still, advocates and celebrities, including actress Susan Sarandon, continue to push for change in Glossip’s case.
Flom highlighted his case in December when he interviewed him for an episode of his podcast.
“His spirit is completely unbroken,” says Flom, who adds that Glossip’s positivity is a reminder to be grateful. “He says, ‘Listen. I’m not mad at anyone and I’m not going to let this ruin my spirit. I dance in my cell, I sing, I paint, I write poetry. My situation’s difficult, but I’m not going to let it get me down. The only day we have is today.'”
As Glossip and his team continue to fight for his release, Flom hopes people gain knowledge about the power they possess when they serve on juries, the starting point of a wrongful conviction.
“I want to abolish the death penalty forever and I want to educate the public as to how these wrongful convictions happen as often as they do, and as openly as they do, and give people the knowledge that they need when they serve on a jury,” Flom says.
He adds, “So when the next Richard Glossip comes up — because there will be others — they will be armed with the information, so that they don’t fall for the same bull—- that they were fed in Richard’s case.”