A really special homecoming

Its been a long time coming. This morning every Scottish newspaper emblazoned its front page with the message Kenny Richey is Coming Home. Its an extraordinary triumph over adversity, but what goes through the mind of a man who has spent 80% of his adult life on Death Row, and once came within an hour of being executed, when he finally gets out?

It would be justifiable for him to feel a great deal of anger. His murder conviction was thrown out by the appeal court but how could it take so long to decide that he didnt receive adequate representation at his original trial? And although the State of Ohio quickly pledged to retry him, it became clear that they couldnt put together a case to do so.

The face-saving deal which eventually led to his release, saw him present no legal defence against a charge of causing death through failing to babysit (although he denies he ever agreed to do so). That his 21 years of torment can then be relabelled as punishment for this crime must be galling, given that at the initial trial the dead childs mother was given only 45 days in jail for a similar offence.

It must also hurt to see the residual sniping over the fudged outcome, and lingering suggestions that he must have done something wrong if he hasnt been cleared. Hes just going to have to live with that, but how much distrust must you have of a legal system to accept that kind of bargain rather than gamble your life on going back into court?

We know from past cases that rebuilding his life will be difficult. Any 43 year old man going back to live with his mother will face certain challenges. But his every move has been dictated by others for so long that simply structuring the day will be hugely difficult.

Hell need some kind of focus. And as he left the court he gave a hint as to where he might find some of that. Almost his first words as a free man were to raise the case of John Spirko, who is scheduled to be executed on 24th January 2008. He is another man who has spent over 20 years on Death Row in Ohio despite serious holes in the case against him. Perhaps his pledge to speak out for other victims of injustice will provide a useful channel for his outrage and his energy.

On a more positive note, there will be so much of the world to explore and he has friends and supporters who can guide him through it. I gather someone already bought him an Xbox for Christmas, a distinct improvement on his old Atari.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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