An Oklahoma man sentenced to death row in the murder-for-hire death of his employer had his conviction overturned on appeal following his first conviction, but he was not so fortunate the second time around. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied post-conviction relief to Richard Eugene Glossip, who was convicted in 1998 and again in 2004 of first degree murder in the death of Barry Alan Van Treese. Glossip, who was the manager of an Oklahoma City Best Budget Inn owned by Van Treese, allegedly feared that Van Treese would fire him for letting the motel slip into disrepair. He offered Justin Sneed, a maintenance man he hired to work at the motel, $10,000 to kill Van Treese, and told him the victim would be carrying $36,000 in cash he could steal after killing the man.
Pleaded Guilty to Murder
Sneed pleaded guilty to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat and testified against Glossip in exchange for a life sentence rather than the death penalty. Glossip was first convicted in 1998, the year following Van Treese's murder. However, he appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The state appeals court ruled in his favor, vacating his conviction and death sentence and ordering a new trial. In 2004, Glossip was again convicted and sentenced to death, and he again appealed. This time, Glossip appealed to a federal appeals court.
In his appeal, Glossip listed the following among his grounds for appeal:
- Issues with voire dire in which he claims the state abused its discretion in removing jurors for cause
- Insufficient evidence
- Lack of corroboration of Justin Sneed's testimony
- The admission of irrelevant and prejudicial evidence
- The use of posters as demonstrative aids to emphasize state's evidence and witness testimony
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
Appeals Court's Decision
The appeals court ruled that any errors found in Glossip's trial were harmless trial that did not affect the outcome of the trial. Some grounds for appeal were found not to be errors at all. For example, Glossip argued that personal information about Van Treese's recent family tragedies and an "in-life" photograph used at trial were highly prejudicial and irrelevant to the case; however, because the defense did not object to this evidence at trial, it was not appealable.
A fair trial is a constitutional right, and an appeal of a conviction is critical for anyone whose rights were infringed upon during a criminal trial. Filing an appeal is a highly complex process which must be handled by an experienced and successful appellate lawyer. If you or a loved one has been unjustly convicted of a crime, contact an appeals lawyer as quickly as possible. Call (405) 778-4800 for a free consultation.