USA: Kenny Richey - Fresh calls for Scotsman on Death Row as USA marks 30 years of death penalty

Amnesty International UK, Reprieve and Scottish anti-death penalty campaigner Karen Torley today (17 January) issued fresh calls for justice for a Scottish man on death row in the USA, as the US marks a 30-year ‘anniversary’ of the death penalty.

Thirty years ago today the US state of Utah executed Gary Gilmore by firing squad, thus ushering in the “modern” era of judicial killing in the USA. For half a decade before Gilmore’s execution, US courts had banned all executions, but since January 1977 the US has gone on to execute over 1,000 people, one of the largest numbers anywhere in the world.

On the 17 January ‘anniversary’ of the modern era of executions, the US state of Texas - by far the biggest executing state in the USA - is also set to execute another prisoner despite concerns that the condemned man (Johnathan Moore) was not competent to stand trial as a result of mental illness.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Today marks a shameful ‘anniversary’ of 30 years of judicial killing in the USA and for 20 of those Kenny Richey has endured the living hell of death row.

“The death penalty is a human rights outrage, achieving nothing but suffering and injustice.

“It’s high time for the USA to abandon this cruel punishment, just as it’s high time for Kenny to receive justice in his case.”

Clive Stafford-Smith, the leading death penalty lawyer and founder of UK anti-death penalty organisation Reprieve, said:

“Think about what you were doing 20 years ago. Imagine having spent 23 hours a day since, locked in your tiny cell with the courts refusing to even consider compelling evidence of your innocence. When will Tony Blair use his special relationship to bring this innocent Scot home?”

Mr Richey has also been the subject of a longstanding campaign from Scottish anti-death penalty campaigner Karen Torley. Ms Torley said:

“I have been campaigning for justice for Kenny for over a decade and I remain as convinced as ever of the need to push for a full hearing of evidence that will show Kenny’s innocence.”

Mr Richey, who has a Scottish mother and grew up in Edinburgh, has fought a long campaign to clear his name. He was convicted of arson and murder in the state of Ohio in 1986 and sentenced to death on 27 January 1987. He has been on death row since then, but has always protested his innocence. Evidence has since emerged casting serious doubt on Mr Richey’s guilt.

Meanwhile, Johnathan Moore, 32, is set to be executed later today (17 January) for the murder of a police officer in San Antonio in Texas in 1995.

There are serious concerns about the mental health of Mr Moore at his 1995 trial. However, despite evidence of Moore’s mental incompetence to stand trial, his lawyers did not ask for a competency hearing. It has been claimed that Moore’s mental state deteriorated during his trial and that Moore had even begun to suspect his own lawyers of being part of a larger conspiracy to kill him.

Though the trial heard that during his adolescence Moore had been committed to a mental hospital and had suffered from increasing paranoia as a young adult, the trial jury found him guilty. At his subsequent sentencing hearing, his lawyers did seek a competency hearing but without recalling mental health experts who therefore never testified at any stage on the question of Moore’s competence to stand trial.

Find out more about Amnesty's campaign against the Death Penalty


  • Next week (24 January) the case of Kenny Richey, who will have been on death row in Ohio, USA for exactly 20 years on 27 January, will be re-heard by the 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeal in Cincinnati.
  • A panel of three judges will be re-considering Mr Richey’s case, including the question of whether evidence that came to light after his 1986 trial should be fully re-examined.

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