OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. — Sometimes, when you report on a story, you find yourself engaged beyond the usual parameters. As a filmmaker and oped columnist, I have occasionally found myself intellectually and emotionally wrapped up in an issue that I am investigating.
However, none has been as gripping as was the case this week when I had a chance to interview Richard Glossip, who is presently on Death Row in Oklahoma facing a scheduled execution on Thursday.
The death penalty is not an issue I think about very often. Periodically, when an execution takes place and it garners media attention, I reflect on it, never quite able to wrap my head around it.
Nothing helped me gain more perspective on the issue than the brilliant 1995 film, Dead Man Walking, for which Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun who began her crusade against the death penalty in the early 1980s in Louisiana.
I was reminded of that film as I spoke to Richard Glossip.
I had the same uneasy feeling that I remembered having so many years ago when I watched the thought-provoking film, directed by Tim Robbins.
Suddenly, I was confronted with Glossip’s frail human state. As he spoke to me about confronting his daughter with the stark, sobering reality of possibly being put to death on Thursday I imagined being in his position and having to explain it to my 7-year-old.
“I had always tried to keep my daughter away from my situation,” Glossip said. “As the day loomed closer she said to me that she enjoyed having me in her life again and didn’t want me to go away for good. I didn’t know what to tell her,” the 51-year-old mastermind of a murder plot said, fighting tears.
Inconsistencies abound in the case of Glossip, who was found guilty of plotting and paying for the assassination of his boss in an Oklahoma City motel.
Glossip said, “All I’m asking is for a stay so that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and the state’s attorney general can review the facts of the case and realize that they have sentenced an innocent man to die.”
It would be prudent for Fallin to take a moment and review Glossip’s case. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the system is flawed. According to Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit website dedicated to the dissemination of statistics regarding the death sentence, 144 Death Row prisoners have been exonerated since 1973.
This glaring and disturbing statistic stands in the face of Gov. Rick Scott’s actions in Florida. Inexplicably, given the mounting evidence of the system’s flaws, Scott has sped up the process by signing into law the Timely Justice Act in 2013. As many states are moving away from capital punishment, Scott is on pace to gain the dubious distinction of being the Florida governor who has overseen the most executions in the state’s history.
Executions seems unfair and inequitable.
The American Civil Liberties Union in their report on capital punishment illustrates that “proportionately people of color are more likely to be executed than whites, especially if the victim is white.” And yet none of these troubling facts seems to deter Gov. Scott or noted international human-rights violators like Cuba, China, North Korea or Iran.
Richard Glossip has asked me to witness his execution on Thursday (though Oklahoma’s attorney general has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a delay pending its decision on constitutionality of the lethal-drug process). “If I am to die, then I want people to witness it and tell the story of what an unjust nation we really are.”
Hear excerpts from Joe Cardona’s interview with Richard Glossip at miamiherald.com/opinion.