Attorney General Schwalb Leads Coalition Urging US Supreme Court to Uphold Principles of Due Process in Death Penalty Case

11 AGs Argue Court Should Give Deference to AGs in Criminal Proceedings, Support Oklahoma’s Push for New Trial

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today led a coalition of 11 attorneys general urging the US Supreme Court to respect a state attorney general’s unique role in the prosecutorial process, specifically by giving appropriate weight to an AG’s confession of error in a case that led to a capital conviction.

“An attorney general’s confession of error in any criminal prosecution is extraordinarily rare,” said Attorney General Schwalb. “For Oklahoma Attorney General Drummond to acknowledge prosecutorial errors that led to a capital conviction shows an admirable commitment to due process and the protection of constitutional rights. Attorney General Drummond’s request for a new trial for Richard Glossip came after a thorough, independent review of the facts of the case. As the state’s chief law officer, Attorney General Drummond is uniquely familiar with the details of the case in a way that the judges who upheld Mr. Glossip’s sentence are not. We urge the Supreme Court to respect the significance of a state attorney general’s confession of error, and to reverse the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision to deny Mr. Glossip a new trial.”

Richard Glossip was convicted of a 1997 murder and sentenced to death in 2004. In 2023, multiple investigations, including by independent outside counsel, revealed several errors in the process that led to Glossip’s conviction. Oklahoma Attorney General Drummond made the remarkably rare decision to confess error in the case—errors that deprived Glossip a fair trial, including the suppression of evidence and presentation of false testimony. Oklahoma requested to vacate the conviction and allow Glossip a new trial, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied that request, and the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case this fall.

The coalition led by Attorney General Schwalb argues that the Court should respect the unique role of a state attorney general to seek justice in criminal litigation, and to give the confession of error that Attorney General Drummond made great weight. As a state’s chief legal officer, attorneys general are bound to support the US Constitution. The coalition of AGs argue that confessing error when an individual’s right to a fair trial has been violated is consistent with and required to fulfill this oath.

A copy of the brief is available here.

AG Schwalb is joined in filing this brief by the attorneys general of Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Elissa Lowenthal, Deputy Solicitor General Graham Phillips, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Ashwin Phatak, and Solicitor General Caroline Van Zile.