Susan Sarandon is on a mission to save the life of a man on death row. The 68-year-old actress was approached by Sister Helen Prejean – who Susan played in her Oscar-winning role in Dead Men Walking – to help bring attention to Richard Glossip, in the hope of securing a stay of execution.
"Sister Helen Prejean called me and convinced me this guy, Richard Glossip, was innocent and needed another chance to have better representation to present new information that would establish a reasonable doubt as to his guilt and save him from being executed," the actress explained to People.
Richard, 52, was arrested in 1997 in connection to the murder of Barry Von Treese in an Oklahoma motel. A man named Justin Sneed confessed to the murder, but said that Richard – the motel's handyman at the time – paid him to do it.
After striking a plea deal, Justin Sneed received life on prison without parole, while Richard was sentenced to death in 1988. His execution has been set for 16 September.
"Since the only real option we had is press, because (he) has gone through a number of trails and has exhausted that route, I decided to help," said Susan, who has signed her own name on petitions on websites including MoveOn.org and change.org, and has helped amass more than 150,000 signatures.
"We're hoping that the governor will give a stay and ask for a clemency hearing so they can look at this information that hasn't really been looked at before.
"The only thing linking Richard Glossip to the murder is the testimony of a murderer, who was 19 at the time, and gave eight statement that all contradict each other."
Stating that there is "no physical evidence or motive linking (Richard) to the crime," Susan believes that Justin Sneed lied to the police about Richard's involvement in order to leverage a plea deal. "In Oklahoma alone, of the 10 people that have been exonerated so far, four of them were based on the discrediting of a snitch, and we feel that's what's happening in this case."
Susan has been in contact with Richard as he nears the day of his execution. "He's hopeful and appreciative of everyone that signed on and found more information," she said of the former maintenance man, who has been on death row for 17 years.
"There are a lot of people in Oklahoma who had no idea about the details of his case, and especially since it's their tax money that will be killing him, they were very thankful and have sent letter of support."
Susan said Richard has "gone through up and downs", but "he feels that, at least because people are aware of his case now, that if he is executed, it will surely lead to the problem in the system being given more attention". While Richard "wants to live, he's happy to be a piece of that education," she added.