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Death row inmate Richard Glossip facing fourth execution date

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Twenty-four years ago today, Richard Glossip was sentenced to death for the first time. An Oklahoma jury had convicted him in the 1997 murder of his boss, Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese. Glossip says he's innocent. And dozens of his state representatives, most of them Republicans who support the death penalty, have come to his support. On Friday, Glossip's legal team filed for clemency. And Glossip's execution date - now the fourth time the state has scheduled his death - is September 22. Kevin McDugle represents District 12 in Oklahoma's Statehouse, and he joins us now. Thank you for being with us.

KEVIN MCDUGLE: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on.

RASCOE: You're part of this unique bipartisan alliance here. More than 40 Republicans, yourself included, and some 20 Democrats want a new trial for Richard Glossip. Why? Can you tell us more about the case?

MCDUGLE: Absolutely. Three years ago, I was introduced to this case. And someone told me that Richard Glossip was innocent and on death row, and I didn't believe them. But I started looking into it, and I watched a series called "Killing Richard Glossip." And I thought, man, if even 10% of this is true, we may have a guy on death row here in Oklahoma that's innocent. And so I started digging in. And I'll tell you what, I saw zero evidence that this guy actually had anything to do with the murder.

RASCOE: Can you just give us a little bit of, like, why you think that Richard Glossip is innocent?

MCDUGLE: Sure. He went in to burglarize him, Justin Sneed did, and threatened him with a baseball bat. And Barry Van Treese stood up and put on a fight. And he ends up killing and says he actually saw him take his last breath. And when you watch the interview tapes of Detective Bemo interviewing and leading Justin Sneed to say what he wanted to say - I mean, we've got videotapes that show this. And they literally tell him, you know, Richard Glossip - you know he's in jail, right? Yeah. He's the one putting it on you the worst. He's the one that's coming after you. He's throwing you under the bus.

They mentioned Richard Glossip's name six times and then say, we know you're not smart enough to do this. And if you'll help us out, we can probably get you a lighter sentence, might not even get the death penalty. You might get something lighter than that. Who helped you out? And so they led him to that doggone answer. We literally have letters from Justin Sneed that he wrote to his attorney wanting to recant his testimony.

RASCOE: Oh, wow. Wow.

MCDUGLE: And we'll be releasing that next week. And the attorney has since passed away, but she knew that he was guilty and that Richard Glossip wasn't. And she still pushed forward because she wrote a letter back to him - and we have that letter - that basically says...

RASCOE: Oh, wow.

MCDUGLE: ...You didn't get the death penalty, so shut your mouth. So I'm telling you - it's unbelievable.

RASCOE: And you're going to release these letters in the next few days?

MCDUGLE: That's correct.

RASCOE: Well, I mean, Glossip's initial conviction was overturned on appeal, but then he was convicted again and sentenced again. And then the state runs out of drugs that it uses for lethal injections, and his execution is delayed. And then there are all these more twists and turns. And now this is his fourth date for execution. Do you think that alone constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, as Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said in 2015, referring specifically to this case?

MCDUGLE: Yeah, I think it does. But I think it also shows something else. It's a complete miracle. I mean, this guy's - he's had three last meals already. And in Oklahoma, the process, when you go to death row, four weeks prior to your death date, you get put into a cell and have a guard there 24 hours, lights on. You can't put your head under the covers. You can't have anything in the jail cell with you other than a Bible. And then knowing that last cell - you're going to be moved into the execution chamber. That's your next step. He's done that three times already. This will be his fourth time.

RASCOE: You have staunchly supported the death penalty. Your state has been notable both for its number of executions and the headlines generated about botched executions.

MCDUGLE: Yes.

RASCOE: Does this case change your view at all?

MCDUGLE: Well, I'll tell you it will if they put him to death. And I say that for this. Oklahoma had 11 at one point that had gone through two trials, and then DNA evidence pulled them out, showing they were innocent. So I am good with the death penalty as long as we have a pure process all the way through, and we can say for sure, for certain, that we're executing guilty people. But if we have any ability for someone to get through there and be an innocent person, then I will fight against the death penalty here.

RASCOE: So right now, are you confident in the process? Or right now this is the test?

MCDUGLE: Oh, not at all. This is the test right now. I wish that Oklahomans would take the time to dig into this like I have. I'm not an attorney. And the attorney general's office looks at us legislators a lot of times like, you're not attorneys. You don't understand the process. You're not a part of the system. Well, that's the problem. You know, justice is supposed to be just, and it's supposed to be blind to color and to race and to all these other things. And I'm good with it being blind to those things, but don't be blind to the truth. And that's what we're blind to right now in this case. We can't admit that we've ever had fault. We can't admit that we ever did anything wrong. I think it's just so bogus that we do that. I can't even say the words that I think honestly when I think of that happening.

RASCOE: That's Oklahoma State Representative Kevin McDugle. Thank you so much for your time.

MCDUGLE: Thank you so much. You have a great day.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAY FARRAR'S "FROST HEAVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeongyoon Han