Saturday, October 3, 2015

Executions in Oklahoma Delayed

After receiving a wrong shipment of lethal drugs, Oklahoma's highest court decided to delay their
Richard Glossip (BBC)
scheduled executions until November 6. The state is planning to use this extra time to investigate why they received potassium acetate (rather than potassium chloride) just hours before the execution of Richard Glossip. Glossip was involved in a controversial murder case back in 1997, when he was convicted largely based on the testimony of Justin Sneed, the man he supposedly hired to kill Barry Van Treese (the victim). It is said that Sneed had an incentive to testify against Glossip because he would receive a lighter sentence if he did so. Sneed is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

Based on what I read about the case, the court decision seems to not be strongly backed. It does not seem like his sentence was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, yet he is still being executed for a crime he may or may not have committed. The new attention towards his case raises important questions about the current state of the criminal justice system of the US. This article from NY times gives a comprehensive overview about what is believed to be the problem with the system, which is summarized by Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, as "a poor defense in the initial trial, which then limits the legal options in later appeals."

Personally, I think it's unjustified for Glossip to be sentenced to capital punishment without hard evidence against him, yet the man who actually killed, Sneed, is sentenced to life in prison. Although it can definitely be argued that death can be more merciful than life in prison, it is still problematic that Sneed serves (what is largely considered to be) a lighter sentence when the evidence against him is stronger. In the wake of Glossip's postponed execution, what do you believe the court should do to ensure that the execution they will be carrying out is justified? Without hard evidence, should they be executing Glossip in the first place?

LA Times 1 2
NY Times


Jeffrey Song said...

With an issue as contentious and hotly debated as capital punishment, it's no surprise that the killer's execution has been on hold for nearly 2 decades. Though I'm sure the court had good reason to convict him back in 1997, the bit about Sneed being the primary witness as well as having considerable incentive to rat out Glossip is interesting in that perhaps the case should be reviewed and looked over once again. I agree that it's unjustified that Glossip should be sentenced to capital punishment, which is obviously irreversible, if there is even a glimmer of doubt regarding his sentence. Capital punishment shouldn't be able to be doled out on account a witness; hard evidence like you mentioned in your post should be required in order to put no doubt about the truth behind the case. Ultimately, the courts should delay this case and perhaps take another look at what truly transpired all those years ago.

Justin Chan said...

Thank you Katherine for your original post. I agree with Jeffrey in that due to the irreversible nature of capital punishment, "it's no surprise that the killer's execution has been on hold for nearly 2 decades." I believe that the time spent within those two decades is crucial to determine Glossip's fault. I understand the argument that many people want to wait longer until more hard evidences surface; however, there is a point when there is no substantial evidence left or possible to bring up. I believe that the longer people are able to push their end, a higher number of people who are in similar situations will do the same thing. This statistics fact sheet from the DPIC is worth looking over, and depending on your side on this issue, it may strengthen or challenge my ideas.
What are your responses to these numbers?
Should we even have a death penalty, as it costs more than life imprisonment?
Is the principle of an eye for an eye an explanation for the continuity of capital punishment?

Katherine Liu said...

Thank you Justin for linking the DPIC fact sheet. The sheet certainly does prove provide a new perspective to the usefulness of capital punishment. Personally, I don't believe that it's truly the most effective way to deter people from crime, mainly because I believe that criminals shouldn't be given what I see as the "easy way out." They should either at best, take the chance to redeem themselves, or at worst, be forced to live with what they did. I recognize that other people may have different beliefs about which punishment is harsher: life in prison or death. In accordance with the cost of the death penalty, however, the high cost only adds to why I believe that the death penalty isn't as useful as it seems.

However, to veer away from a discussion on the controversial issue of the death penalty, I originally posted about this issue because of the nature of how Glossip's case was handled. In response to your statement:
"I understand the argument that many people want to wait longer until more hard evidences surface; however, there is a point when there is no substantial evidence left or possible to bring up."
I cannot claim to be an expert on the issue, however, I wondered if your statement could be looked at in relation to how his first case was judged? What if there wasn't any hard evidence to go off of from the beginning? (Which seems to be the case, as supported by the claims that his sentence was determined based on the testimony of his partner in crime. This was what made his case controversial in the first place.) Maybe he did have a role in the crime but not as big as it was played up to be? My main issue with this case is that his sentencing wasn't really based off of clear evidence, yet he was still dealt with extremely harshly. And now he has little hope to prove himself innocent, possibly because of the lack of evidence.

Jessica Westmont said...

It has been eighteen years since he was convicted and nothing has come along to fully prove him guilty. Capital punishment is controversial, and there are many people against it. Many more will turn against it if it is discovered that a man was innocent after he was lethally injected. Capital punishment should only be used against people who are known to be completely guilty, for example Sneed. I personally do not believe in the death penalty, however the point of it is to take someone out of the world for the public’s safety. They do not have concrete evidence against Richard Glossip and therefore they do not know if capital punishment will be doing its job. Glossip also has much support behind him. There is graffiti in Finland that says, “I believe Richard Glossip is innocent,” and Doctor Phil devoted his entire 8/31 program to Glossip’s case. Executing Glossip will only cause controversy and uproar. A life sentence would be much more appropriate considering the circumstances.