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Nationally recognized television host Dr. Phil McGraw traveled to his home state of Oklahoma on Tuesday to advocate for death row prisoner Richard Glossip as the state’s Republican leaders seek to cancel his execution.
“I certainly think there is an absence of checks and balances here,” Dr. Phil said.
Glossip, 60, has been on Oklahoma’s death row for 25 years and has had nine separate execution dates and eaten three last meals for his conviction in a 1997 murder-for-hire of his boss Barry Van Treese. He’s maintained his innocence that entire time.
Gaining the support of 61 Republican state lawmakers, even the state’s newly elected Attorney General Gentner Drummond has sought to vacate his execution due to prosecutorial misconduct, an unreliable witness and other issues in the case.
Despite the AG requesting to vacate the execution, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied the state’s top prosecutor. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprisingly fast decision, approved a stay for Glossip, meaning his May 18 execution date won’t take place. It gives supporters and state leaders more time to decide what options they have to offer Glossip a new trial.
Oklahoma’s death penalty system “doesn’t seem logical to me”
Dr. Phil, who also supports Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed, traveled to the state to voice his support for Glossip.
The Black Wall Street Times asked Dr. Phil of his opinion of the Oklahoma’s handling of the death penalty.
“When you have the attorney general, who is the top law enforcement official in the state…when he says ‘we confess that we have erred in this case,’ then a portion of the judicial system ignores that and proceeds anyway, that doesn’t seem logical to me,” Dr. Phil responded.
Dr. Phil advocates for death row prisoner on Day of Action at Oklahoma State Capitol
Dr. Phil’s trip to the Oklahoma State Capitol coincided with a statewide “Day of Action” organized by Together Oklahoma, the advocacy arm of Oklahoma Policy Institute.
Launched in 2008, OK Policy Institute is a non-partisan independent policy think-tank. It works to advance “equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy, according to its website.
Dozens of people traveled to the Capitol to lobby legislators to pursue bills that would make a positive impact on the community.
Based in Tulsa, Austin Webb is Northeast Regional Organizer for Together in Oklahoma. He wants to encourage people to not be afraid to visit their lawmakers at the state Capitol.
“I think we often view our politicians, and politics in general, as something elite and distant. But when you come to the capitol and you meet with your state senator or representative face-to-face, you get to see that they’re just a person,” Webb told The Black Wall Street Times. “And no matter who you are or what your background is, when one of their constituents comes to see them in person, it’s very powerful and they’re inclined to listen to what you have to say.”
Fighting for change through conversations
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Shelley Ware, who advocates on behalf of Channen Smith, a man who supporters claim is falsely imprisoned in Tulsa on a murder charge.
“I’m here on behalf of Channen Smith who has been incarcerated for 12 1/2 years for a crime he did not commit,” Ware told The Black Wall Street Times.
Like other advocates during Together Oklahoma’s Day of Action, Ware was on a mission to gain the ears of lawmakers with the power to make change.
“Because I believe in criminal justice reform. I believe in second chances. It takes a couple of years for a prosecutor to put somebody behind bars wrongfully, but it takes a minimum of 14 up to 40 years to get that corrected,” Ware said.
In the case of Richard Glossip, no one understands the pain of that decades-long wait more than his wife, Lea. Speaking with Dr. Phil at the 10:30 a.m. rally outside the Oklahoma State Capitol, Lea explained how she and Glossip find their strength.
“If we focus on what could be, what may be lying ahead, it will eat us both alive, to be quite honest. We have focused very hard to stay in the moment together on the love we have for each other and our shared faith together,” Lea Glossip said.