USA: Amnesty International head speaks out after visit to death row Scot

Speaking after her visit yesterday (Thursday 19 February 2004) to the Mansfield Correctional Facility in Ohio, Kate Allen said:

'It was crucial for me to come to Ohio to see Kenny Richey and the state authorities in person.

'Kenny has endured over 17 years on death row and Amnesty International has deep concerns about his case that go beyond our usual opposition to the death penalty.

'His case is one of the most compelling cases of apparent innocence that human rights campaigners have ever seen.

'I wanted to ensure that Kenny realised that his plight is very much in our minds.

'Equally, I wanted to impress upon the state authorities our deep concerns, including that Kenny should get a proper chance to clear his name and to avoid what could be a tragic injustice.'

Kate Allen has been accompanied on her trip by Alistair Carmichael MP (Orkney and Shetland), who has taken up Scotsman Kenny Richey's case.

Ms Allen and Mr Carmichael are also scheduled to meet officials at the office of Ohio Governor Bob Taft to raise concerns over the fairness of 39-year-old Kenny Richey's trial and the safety of his conviction. He was convicted of an arson and murder committed in the state of Ohio in 1986 and sentenced to death in January 1987. He has now been on death row for over 17 years.

Evidence has since emerged casting serious doubt on Mr Richey's guilt. This evidence appears to have been accepted by the state, which nevertheless intends to press ahead with the execution process.

Alistair Carmichael said:

'The experience of meeting Kenny Richey on death row is one which will remain with me for the rest of my life.

'It would be an affront to justice and humanity if this man is executed while such massive doubt about the safety of his conviction remains.

'It is imperative that the British Government - which likes to boast of its influence in America - do everything it can to bring pressure to bear on authorities here to save Kenny Richey's life.'

Amnesty International and Mr Carmichael are urging the Ohio state authorities to allow Kenny Richey the opportunity to have the as-yet-unheard evidence properly examined. This may mean that his case is re-tried, that he is accorded a new evidentiary hearing or a re-sentencing hearing is allowed.

The human rights organisation and numerous MPs are also pressing the UK government to vigorously support Mr Richey's case in line with the government's policy of opposing the death penalty in all instances.

Mr Richey, who has a Scottish mother and grew up in Edinburgh, has also married a Scottish woman and leading campaigner on his case, Karen Richey. Ms Richey recently said of Kenny's case:

'Without doubt Kenny Richey's conviction and death sentence is a travesty of justice.

'The fact that after 17 years on death row awaiting execution he is prepared to die an innocent man rather than live as a convicted killer, surely emphasises the principled nature of his earlier decision to refuse a plea-bargain to save his life.'

More about Amnesty International's campaign against the death penalty is available online...

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