What Is Richard Glossip's Death Sentence For?

On Wednesday evening, the state of Oklahoma is schedule to execute a prisoner, and it's causing a swell of national attention, and some outcry as well. The man in question is 52-year-old Richard Glossip, convicted and sentenced to death for his involvement in the 1997 murder of his former boss, Barry Van Treese. On Monday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal to stop his execution, and now his lawyers are appealing to the Supreme Court to intervene. So, who is Richard Glossip, and what did he do?

The story, and what the truth is, is a subject of intense debate. This much is clear, however: 18 years ago, Van Treese was beaten to death in a room in the hotel he owned by Justin Sneed, a fellow co-worker of Glossip's. Sneed was tried and convicted of murdering Van Treese, but was spared the death penalty by testifying against Glossip, claiming that Glossip paid him $10,000 to kill their boss. Thanks to this testimony, Sneed is currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. Glossip has maintained all along that Sneed framed him.

That's basically it, in a nutshell — as The Intercept detailed in their exhaustive reporting on the Glossip case, there's no concrete evidence of his guilt beyond Sneed's testimony. And there have been multiple people who've since come forward to cast doubt on Sneed's claims, including his daughter (who says correspondence with her father convinced her that his conscience was getting to him, though he has not recanted his story), and a former inmate named Michael Scott, who claims Sneed bragged about averting death by implicating Glossip.

Glossip maintains his complete and utter innocence, but state authorities haven't seen fit to delay his impending death any further. Earlier this month, as detailed by The Atlantic, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declined to postpone Glossip's execution for 60 days to allow new evidence to be heard, on the grounds that she saw "no reason to cast doubt on the guilty verdict reached by the jury." And according to Oklahoma City FOX affiliate KOKH, the city's District Attorney David Prater condemned the outcry on Glossip's behalf as a "bullshit P.R. campaign."

This is crap. This is a bullshit PR campaign. That's all it is. You want to do something in the legal ... do it in the courts; that's where we operate.

Glossip was granted a two-week stay on Sept. 16, but that's about to run out, even though the evidence used to convict him is no less thin and dependent entirely on the testimony of the man convicted of actually committing the murder. Obviously, there's no way to know for certain whether Sneed actually lied about Glossip's involvement, but that very uncertainty itself is a key reason for all the protest and uproar — you don't get a second chance at justice after you've executed someone. And you'd be hard-pressed to argue Sneed had no motive to lie, with his own fate hinging on Glossip's involvement.

Glossip is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday, barring any last-minute intervention from the Supreme Court. He's come harrowingly close to being put to death once already — he was within hours of execution when the two-week stay was granted earlier this month, and had already started eating his last meal.