Sister Helen Prejean, best known as the "Dead Man Walking" nun, has accompanied six prisoners to their executions — and barring what she concedes would be a "miracle," she'll witness her seventh on Wednesday.
Richard Glossip, who has been on death row for 18 years, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 3 p.m. CT in Oklahoma despite pleas for a last-minute reprieve from Prejean, football coach Barry Switzer and actress Susan Sarandon, who played the nun in the 1995 Oscar-winning film.
"I don't think anybody should be put to death by the state but it just seems so glaring in his case," Prejean said.
Glossip reached out to the nun in January, a few weeks before his last execution date. That was delayed after the U.S. Supreme Court took up his challenge to the particular combination of drugs that Oklahoma uses to kill inmates.
The high court eventually sided with the state, and Glossip's more recent appeals, which argue he is actually innocent of orchestrating the murder of his boss, have been rejected by the courts.
Prejean, who runs the Ministry Against the Death Penalty out of Louisiana, traveled to Oklahoma to prepare for what was looking more inevitable as the hours passed, especially after Gov. Mary Fallin refused to delay his execution.
She visited Glossip at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Tuesday evening and was scheduled to return Wednesday to be one of his execution witnesses. A Department of Corrections spokesman said only his lawyers would be allowed to meet with him Wednesday under the state's new execution protocol, which was overhauled after a botched lethal injection last year.
Before the visit, Prejean said her goal was "just to help him be poised that tomorrow at 3 p.m., he may die."
She said that while Glossip still had hope he might be spared, "he feels that even if he is killed, he has shown how broken this whole system of death is."
Prosecutors have portrayed Glossip as a calculating killer who tried to cover up a $6,000 embezzlement by convincing a maintenance man, Justin Sneed, to kill their boss, hotel owner Barry van Treese, in January 1997. He then helped Sneed cover up the brutal bludgeoning and lied to investigators, authorities say.
Glossip's original conviction was overturned because of deficiencies in his defense, but he was found guilty and sentenced to death in a 2004 retrial.
"I don't have a doubt in my mind that the state of Oklahoma has done their part," said the victim's son, Daniel Van Treese, who plans to attend the execution with two siblings.
Glossip's defenders note the case hinged on the testimony of Sneed, who cut a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty despite admitting he was the one who beat Van Treese to death with a bat. They say Sneed has given contradictory accounts and his own daughter endorsed clemency for Glossip.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said this week that he hasn't seen any new evidence that suggests Glossip isn't guilty and took a swipe at the prisoner's bold-faced backers.
"This is crap. This is a bull---- PR campaign, that's all it is," Prater said.
Van Treese said he also has little patience for those fighting to save Glossip's life. "It's people who have more money than sense," he said. "They're using him to push their goals."
He said that after years of appeals and delays, his family is ready to put Richard Glossip behind them.
"It's going to allow us to have a little bit of closure," he said of the execution. "Let us get on with our lives."
Prejean said that if it comes to pass, Wednesday will be difficult for her, too. She has not walked a man to his execution since 2004.
"I am doing everything for him I can, to try to be with him in those final moments of terror," she said.
"Once they are over on the other side, I know they are in a realm where they cannot be touched and cannot be suffering. I believe if Richard does go, he is going to make it over with grace."