By Jane Corley
At a late lunch here in Oklahoma City two hours ago we learned – to jubilant delight – that Oklahoma’s death row prisoner Richard Glossip had at 1:18pm been granted a stay of his execution scheduled for May 18, 2023 by the U.S. Supreme Court. We hollered, praised our various gods, and sent friends pictures of each of us beaming and sporting victory hand signs.
But Glossip isn’t out of the woods yet. He has been granted breathing time for an indeterminate period pending the Court’s decision to grant certiorari, or cert, in two separate underlying cases. “Should both petitions for writs of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically.”[i] Glossip, 60, has maintained he is innocent of the murder of his boss in 1998, and an earlier date for his execution in 2015 was halted based the state’s finding that it had questions about the drugs to be used in his lethal injection.
The Glossip roller coaster ride went up April 26 when Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond told the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Paroles the execution should not take place based on an independent investigation that “cast doubt on the conviction.” The ride screamed down abruptly later that day when the board ruled 2-2 against clemency.
All of this attention to the case of a White defendant causes frustration to some of the 40 persons on death row who also contend they are innocent but may never get the same attention. In his Patheos column issued today, The Rev. Jeff Hood shared a message of frustration from Emmanuel Littlejohn, a Black death row inmate from Oklahoma convicted under the “law of parties,”[ii] wherein anyone who participates in an offense that results in capital murder can be sentenced to death regardless of whether they were the actual killer.
“I don’t know his case and won’t speak on it (Glossip’s case), but I’ll say this, how many other men are on death row and have not killed anyone? how many have been killed? it’s not right!! … I plead with you to join me in pleading my case, if you feel the wrongness of this (my case getting no attention and the current high profile case getting all the attention) stand with me, fight with me!”
How many other men and women of color on Oklahoma’s death row who have credible claims of innocence – such as Anthony Sanchez — will receive the attention received by Richard Glossip? Our friend Adrianna Laws, an Oklahoma City community organizer who is Black, almost choked on her lemonade when we told her at this same lunch about Dr. Phil’s plan to hold a vigil next Tuesday; her perception of the TV personality’s stance on race was less than favorable.
While all of us cheered by Glossip’s good fortune today celebrate with him, the struggle is far from over.
[i] https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/050523zr_qol1.pdf, collected 5/5/23 at 3:55 p.m. CST
[ii] https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jeffhood/words-from-oklahomas-death-row-emmanuel-littlejohn-on-the-richard-glossip coment/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Progressive+Christian&utm_content=695; collected 5/5/23 at 3:55 p.m. CST