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  • Writer's pictureKevin Huffman

When Worlds Collide

News came yesterday that Richard Glossip, who sits on death row in Oklahoma, was granted a reprieve by the Governor so his innocence case can be evaluated by the Court of Criminal Appeals. This is the 4th time that the state has attempted to kill Richard and his fourth reprieve, which should tell you something about the justice system. I had the opportunity to tell Richard's story in a series titled "Killing Richard Glossip"

and I can tell you a couple of things. First, he's innocent. Second, he arrived on death row because the police manipulated (threatened) the actual killer, Justin Sneed, into pointing the finger at Glossip in exchange for a life sentence. Glossip was accused of ordering the murder of his motel owning boss, Barry Van Treese in exchange for money.

But here is where the worlds begin to collide. As we wrap up our series about the next generation of lawyers -- and the need for training and advocacy, I am reminded of the extraordinary ineptitude of Richard's original trial attorney, Wayne Fournerat.

Wayne had never tried a murder case before, let alone a capital murder case. His defense of Richard was so abysmal, that he allowed the state to railroad Richard. So idiotic that the prosecution was desperate to avoid a mistrial. I've read the transcripts of the trial -- if it wasn't so tragic it would be comical. The state found Wayne's defense to be ineffective, and overturned the rulings - unheard of in a hang em high state like Oklahoma. But, by then it was too late for Glossip. His next attorney was booted before trial over a trumped up charge. His other attorneys were almost as incompetent as Wayne .

I interviewed Wayne and he told me that this was the single biggest mistake of his life -- he was eventually disbarred and run out of state by the cops. He contemplated suicide. He isn't a bad man, I know that. He was just never trained to argue a case in court.

Now Richard has a team of hard working and competent attorneys, led by Don Knight. More than 1/3 of the House of Reps in Oklahoma are calling for Richard to get a fair trail. Many of these lawmakers are pro-death penalty. But they believe in justice -- and in a very Western way -- you don't kill an innocent man who was not given a fair trial.

I thought of Richard when I started down the road to create Class Action with my good friend Lisa Gray. She's veteran of producing stories about the woes of the justice system. We worked together with director, Joe Berlinger, who created the series about Richard.

I look at these young attorneys in this series and try to imagine them in court - fighting for their clients with skill and with the knowledge of courtroom procedure. I picture young defense lawyers like Amaya and DeAndre, Matt , Tyler, Ellie, Anjani and Jasmin -- who have all talked about their desire to represent those who can't fight for themselves -- and I feel good about the future.

Support these young lawyers -- encourage them to fight for justice. And if you feel inspired, sign the petition to send a message to the Court of Criminal Appeals and save Glossip's life.

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