Gov. Mary Fallin lost this round of the pernicious game of Death Row Chicken.
In this game that surrounds most executions, every branch that could do something about an execution pushes the others to go first. If no one blinks, the sentence of ultimate justice is carried out.
Fallin blinked Wednesday after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution to twice-convicted murderer Richard Glossip. The Oklahoma governor granted a 37-day stay after Glossip had enjoyed his second last meal and witnesses were already seated and ready to see him die.
In a strange ruling, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said the testimony of jailhouse witnesses isn’t credible enough to warrant a new trial for Richard Glossip.
Take that however you want, but Glossip, Kelly Gissendaner – who was the only woman on death row in Georgia before she was executed Tuesday - and Kimber Edwards on Missouri’s death row all have been executed or face execution because of the testimony of someone who pointed the finger at them after committing the actual murder themselves.
Before his second stay in two weeks, Glossip received support from a strange collection of celebrities. Susan Sarandon, Richard Branson, Sister Helen Prejean, Barry Switzer and Sen. Tom Coburn all asked courts and the Governor to pardon the twice-convicted man.
Their concerns were obvious.
Glossip never killed anyone. He may have been guilty of murder because of his alleged involvement, but he never bludgeoned a man to death.
The man who did is still alive because he took the stand as a witness against Glossip.
If you don’t see injustice there, your rose colored glasses are dimming your view.
Gissendaner wasn’t as fortunate. She was executed and no one in Georgia had any concerns about the lethal injection process. In less than a week, Missouri will be faced with the same decision in Edwards’ case.
Fallin could have issued her stay two weeks ago instead of relying on the Court of Criminal Appeals to issue a two-week delay to give attorneys time to present and verify possible new evidence that would clear Glossip.
When those 14-days passed and no court was willing to reconsider the case on legal grounds, Fallin stepped in to question the process – the same process that would have been used two weeks ago when she seemed ready to stand her ground and fight for the rights of the victim in the case.
After issuing the stay Wednesday, Fallin said, “My sincerest sympathies go out to the Van Treese family, who has waited so long to see justice done.”
I have no problem with the death penalty when it is used on a person who we know is guilty of a heinous crime. But when any question exists, I am quick to let that convict to spend the rest of his natural life in jail.
These cases where the person with blood literally on their hands escapes the death penalty while those who compelled or convinced them to do it face lethal injection are particularly troubling.
Oklahoma has been under scrutiny since the execution of Clayton Lockett went wrong and he did not die peacefully during the process. The fact that Glossip is facing a sentence more severe than the man who took Barry Van Treese’s life is more evidence that the death penalty isn’t appropriate in this case.
One of the biggest questions around the death penalty has historically been the decision as to whether it is cruel and unusual punishment as defined by constitutional law.
Glossip has eaten his last meal twice and was prepared for execution Wednesday before Fallin halted the process about an hour after it was to begin.
Apparently the drugs being used in the process weren’t made known to his attorneys or the Attorney General until just before the process started.
That is unthinkable.
With the problems the state has faced recently, you would think some discussion would take place before the inmate is prepared for execution.
There is nothing morally wrong with the death penalty. Clumsy, unjust use of it is repugnant.
Oklahoma officials should be ashamed.