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Appeals court denies death row inmate Richard Glossip’s request for hearing on new evidence

By Steve Almasy and Rebekah Riess, CNN

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday denied a petition for a hearing on new evidence in the case of death row inmate Richard Glossip, convicted of a 1997 murder committed by someone else.

At trial, prosecutors said Glossip, a motel manager, ordered another employee to kill his boss, Barry Van Treese. Justin Sneed took a plea deal, testified against Glossip and was sentenced to life in prison.

Glossip, who is now scheduled to be killed by lethal injection in February, has maintained his innocence. His current appeals attorney said in a news release the new evidence includes “several affidavits from witnesses offering facts that support the claim that Sneed was a lying, meth-addicted thief” who killed Van Treese for drug money.

Attorney Don Knight said the appeals court decision was difficult to understand.

“The evidence of Rich’s innocence, and the State’s misconduct, is overwhelming and deserving of, at the very minimum, a fair hearing where we can present our evidence,” he said in the press statement. “This is all we have ever asked for and is something that, obviously, the State is desperate to see never happen.”

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said the court thoroughly reviewed Glossip’s application for a hearing and the judges determined the defense team failed to show he is innocent.

“The Court recognized, as we have said all along, ‘Far from making a claim of factual innocence, Glossip actually raises a theory of a defense’ considered by the Court in prior appeals or applications,” O’Connor said.

Glossip’s team says they have a second petition for a hearing pending appeals court review.

“The litigation in this case is not over, but we are relieved for the family of Mr. Van Treese and for the people of Oklahoma that, after waiting so long for justice to be served, one more stage of litigation is behind them,” the attorney general added.

Case has seen execution delayed many times

Glossip, 59, has been on the verge of execution three times before, even being served three separate last meals, according to his attorney. In September 2015, Glossip was minutes from execution when then-Gov. Mary Fallin postponed it over concerns the state procured an unauthorized drug for the procedure.

Glossip was initially was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998, but it was overturned in 2001 because of ineffective defense counsel. Glossip was convicted in a second trial in 2004 and again sentenced to death.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has twice recently issued a stay, including one on November 2 which effectively pushed Glossip’s execution date to February 16.

Glossip has also filed a clemency petition with the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, but a hearing scheduled for this week was postponed. No new date was announced.

In an interview with CNN in 2015, Glossip said he believed Sneed implicated him to avoid the death penalty.

In February, citing years of concerns about the conviction, some Oklahoma state lawmakers asked the law firm Reed Smith to investigate the Glossip case, in which the firm had no prior involvement.

The firm released a report in June which said a “sloppy and truncated” police investigation and destroyed evidence resulted in Glossip’s conviction. It concluded “the 2004 trial cannot be relied on to support a murder-for-hire conviction. Nor can it provide a basis for the government to take the life of Richard E. Glossip.”

“Our conclusion is that no reasonable jury, hearing the complete record and the uncovered facts detailed in this report, would have convicted Richard Glossip of capital murder,” Reed Smith attorney Stan Perry said in June.

Sneed, 55, is incarcerated at a medium security facility in Lexington, Oklahoma, according to the Department of Corrections website.

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CNN’s Jason Hanna and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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