Today, Richard Glossip narrowly escaped death for the fourth time.
The 52-year-old Oklahoma man, who's twice been convicted of paying a co-worker to kill their boss at a seedy motel, was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 3 PM local time. When the US Supreme Court denied his last-ditch appeal for a stay of execution this afternoon, it seemed like the guy was out of options. (Glossip had already won a stay from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals earlier this month after his lawyers produced new evidence, but that court narrrowly decided not to spare him on Monday.)
No one expected Governor Mary Fallin—a death penalty cheerleader who has repeatedly rejected appeals from Glossip's lawyers—to intervene. But citing concerns about whether the drug cocktail prison officials planned to use on him passed legal muster, Fallin swooped in and gave the man widely believed to be innocent a bit more time to make his case.
"Last minute questions were raised today about Oklahoma's execution protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection," Fallin said in a statement. "After consulting with the attorney general and the Department of Corrections, I have issued a 37 day stay of execution while the state addresses those questions and ensures it is complying fully with the protocols approved by federal courts."
The drug in question was not Midazolam, which the Supreme Court in June ruled is fair game for executioners to use as a sedative despite horrifying cases in Oklahoma and elsewhere that saw the condemned endure pain and burning sensations before dying. Instead, prison officials apparently planned to use potassium acetate as the third—and deadly—drug in their cocktail, even though they traditionally use potassium chloride. Fallin wants to make sure that's Kosher.
Pope Francis called out America for practicing the death penalty in his speech to Congress last week and specifically called for Glossip to be spared in the hours leading up to his scheduled demise. Fallin did not reference the Pope's plea in her statement, but she did apologize to the Van Treese family, "who has waited so long to see justice done."
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