The US Supreme Court on Friday put on hold the execution of Richard Glossip, an Oklahoma death row inmate whose capital conviction the state attorney general has said he could no longer support.
The latest round of litigation was brought to the Supreme Court by Glossip, with the support of the Oklahoma Attorney’s General office, who asked for his May 18 execution to be set aside.
The emergency hold on his execution will stay in place while the justices consider his request that they formally take up his case.
There were no noted dissents from Friday’s order. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in Friday’s ruling.
Glossip has maintained his innocence, having been convicted in 1998 of capital murder for ordering the killing of his boss.
A review launched by Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general found that prosecutors had failed to disclose evidence to Glossip that they were obligated to produce and that the evidence showed that the prosecutors’ key witness – the supposed accomplice of Glossip’s who committed the murder – had given false testimony.
Despite Oklahoma’s assertions that it could no longer stand by Glossip’s conviction, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeal declined Glossip’s request that his execution be halted.
In their filings with the US Supreme Court, Glossip’s attorneys argued that – in addition to the obviously irreparable harm he would suffer if the execution moves forward – Oklahoma “will also suffer harm from its Department of Corrections executing a person whom the State has concluded should never have been convicted of murder, let alone sentenced to die, in the first place.”
Glossip’s case has been before the Supreme Court before, including in a major challenge the justices heard in 2015 that he and other death row inmates brought to the lethal injection protocol used in executions.
In that case, the court’s conservative majority rejected the inmates’ claims that the lineup of the lethal drugs, which had come under scrutiny after several botched executions, violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Glossip has narrowly avoided being executed on several occasions, including months after the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling, when the execution was called off at the last minute by state officials because of questions about the drugs they were planning to use.
This story has been updated with additional details.