Richard Glossip was due to die yesterday in Oklahoma for his conviction for being the brains behind a murder in 1997. Glossip has had last-minute reprieves before, raising the hopes of him, his family and friends, lawyers, and death penalty opponents, only to see them dashed. All of them had seemed resigned to the fact that he had run out of options and the fight was over. Then just an hour before he was to be killed, governor Mary Fallin issued a 37-day reprieve in order to study whether the method of execution was appropriate. Liliana Segura and Jordan Smith explain background to the latest events.
It was Glossip’s case that went to the US Supreme Court earlier this year challenging the use of the cocktail of drugs that are used in lethal injections. The court ruled 5-4 against Glossip though justice Stephen Breyer issued a powerful dissent challenging the death penalty itself. Even justice Antonin Scalia, a strong supporter of the constitutionality of the death penalty, has said recently that he would not be surprised if the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional.
In Glossip’s case there has also been a case made that he is actually innocent of the charge for which he was convicted, that was based on the uncorroborated testimony of the person who actually carried out the murder and who negotiated a plea deal in return for a life sentence.
Why do we still have such a barbaric practice like the death penalty? Why do we go through all this over and over again putting so many people through this emotional wringer? Let us for a moment leave aside for a moment the issue of whether the condemned person deserves to die. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the families of this person to have to go through all of this.