Just days before Glossip’s new execution date on Sept. 30, former prison cell-mates of Justin Sneed are coming forward. They are saying that it was “common knowledge” in the prisons that Sneed lied about Richard Glossip’s involvement in the murder of Barry Van Treese, and that he implicated Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty.
But apparently these new witnesses are getting a backlash from the State:
With his client’s new execution date one week away, Knight believes there is a “treasure trove” of people like Tapley and Scott who could prove Glossip’s innocence. But finding them — and convincing them to come forward — has been difficult. This is not particularly surprising: for those who have left prison, it would mean thrusting one’s criminal past into the public eye, as Michael Scott learned last weekend, when The Oklahoman ran a news story questioning his credibility. The article, which was based on a 2005 Department of Corrections document, included Scott’s old mug shot and detailed his limited education, the many illegal drugs he had used at 18, and the fact that he admitted to having lied many times in the past.
To Knight, the leaking of the ten-year-old record in Scott’s case was retaliatory — a clear attempt at intimidating anyone else who might come forward. “If that’s what the state can do to people who are out,” he told The Intercept, “imagine what they can do to people who are in.” Indeed, according to Knight and his colleagues, a number of people currently imprisoned with Sneed at Joseph Harp Correctional Facility have declined to speak, not because they deny knowing anything, but out of concern that they would lose their placement at the medium-security prison and be sent somewhere worse.
There are good reasons to take any kind of jailhouse testimony with a grain of salt. But there is also an irony in questioning the credibility of people like Tapley or Scott while defending Glossip’s conviction, as the editorial boards of both The Oklahoman and The Tulsa World have done. After all, if we have to dismiss the claims of former felons with very little to gain — and much to lose — by speaking out on Glossip’s behalf, how can anyone defend a death sentence based solely on the word of an admitted killer with the ultimate incentive to lie?