Death Row - Ohio
Complete transcript of Frontline Scotland's Killing Time profile of Kenny's case!
|During the months preceding 21
March 1997, evidence
was presented to the Ohio Court of Common
conclusively establishing the innocence of Kenny Richey.
This compelling evidence was submitted to support a bid for a hearing to allow Kenny's defence team to show that the case was a tragic miscarriage of justice. The state prosecution did not dispute the accuracy of the new evidence.
Prosecution Dan Gershutz said, "Even though this new evidence may establish Mr Richey's innocence, the Ohio and United States constitution nonetheless allow him to be executed because the prosecution did not know that the scientific testimony offered at the trial was false and unreliable."
Without setting any reasons, Judge Michael Corrigan agreed, (Judge Corrigan was the foreman of a panel of three judges who convicted Kenny then sentenced him to die by electrocution). He refused the defences request for an evidentiary hearing and dismissed Kenny's appeal. Thus Kenny was denied the right to prove his innocence of the crime for which was convicted.
By John Seewer
Ken Richey sits by himself but not alone in his cell on Ohio's death row.
That's because thousands of supporters all over the world believe this man from Scotland has been wrongly sentenced to die for starting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl.
While his case has generated limited interest in Ohio, his name is a familiar one in Britain. Filmmakers have produced two documentaries that question his guilt. British and Scottish citizens and politicians have written thousands of letters, saying he's wrongly imprisoned.
There are Internet sites to convince others of his innocence.
The attention being given to Richey, though, is unusual. There are 191 people on Ohio's death row, mostly at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. Only Wilford Berry, the inmate who has volunteered to be executed, has received as much notice. Berry's scheduled execution Feb. 19 would be Ohio's first since 1963.
Just a few issues seem able to energize people to rally behind inmates waiting to be executed. They include the youthfulness of the inmate when the crime was committed, mental instability or retardation, religious commitment and nationality.
The movement behind the Kenneth Richey Campaign For Justice began in his native land long after he was convicted of burning an apartment in 1986 in Columbus Grove.
Richey had moved to the northwest Ohio village to be near his family and look for work.
``He was on death row six years before anybody here in Scotland knew about him,'' said Karen Torley, coordinator of the campaign to free Richey. ``It's unusual because we don't have the death penalty.''
She first learned about Richey, now 36, by watching a documentary that explained how he angrily threatened to set fire to his girlfriend's apartment. Witnesses told authorities he had said he would ``torch the place.''
His girlfriend escaped the flames but a child, Cynthia Collins, was trapped in another apartment and died.
The documentary questioned whether authorities thoroughly investigated the fire and whether Richey's lawyer failed to present all of the evidence. It cited the prosecutor's claim that Richey, who was wearing a cast on his hand, climbed a tool shed and a balcony on the night of the fire while carrying cans of gas and paint thinner.
But Ms. Torley still didn't buy Richey's story.
``I didn't like him at first. I thought he was arrogant,'' she said from her home in Glasgow, Scotland. ``A lot of people were skeptical because everyone says they're innocent.''
There were plenty of reasons not to believe his story. He was considered a troublemaker and a playboy. He was irresponsible and twice attempted suicide. But later after learning more about the case, Ms. Torley got involved.
``It became very apparent that something was very wrong and nobody was listening,'' she said.
They are now.
There have been offers to help pay his legal bills. And hundreds of Scottish citizens have flooded news organizations and government offices with letters asking anyone who will listen to investigate Richey's case.
Whether this death row campaign will have any success is debatable.
Victor Streib, dean of the law school at Ohio Northern University, has been involved in high-profile cases involving death row prisoners. Creating publicity for a case rarely results in it being overturned, he said.
In fact, he has found that the media attention is usually a problem because it's harder to focus on facts ``when you've got minicams in your face and people are screaming at you.''
Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor and an expert on the death penalty, said the reason most prisoners who are sentenced to die don't generate a great deal of support is their background.
``Most are poor black males who aren't able to garner the resources or bodies to protest,'' she said. ``It's why international cases gain more interest.''
Richey is fair-haired and photogenic.
Ken Parsigian, Richey's lawyer, doesn't expect the publicity to impact his client's current appeal pending in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.
``It's not going to make a difference to a federal judge,'' he said. Richey's appeals have been exhausted at the state level, and the case now is in federal court where his lawyers hope they can get a new trial.
But if the case comes down to waiting for a clemency decision from the governor, Richey's supporters have the potential to stop his execution, Parsigian said.
``If there's a public outcry, that may make a difference,'' he said.
And there's another way the support is helping Richey's cause.
``I think it gives a boost to Kenny. It matters to him and makes him feel better,'' Parsigian said. ``It provides some satisfaction to know that others are hearing your case.''