USA/UK: Kenny Richey case - Campaigners welcome fresh appeal as 20-year point looms

Amnesty International UK, Reprieve and anti-death penalty campaigners today (24 January) welcomed a fresh opportunity for a Scottish man on death row in the USA to clear his name.

Later today the case of Kenny Richey, who has been on death row in Ohio, USA for almost 20 years, will be back in the US courts. In the 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeal in Cincinnati, a panel of three judges will be reconsidering Kenny Richey’s case, including the question of whether evidence that came to light after his 1986 trial should be re-examined.

The hearing, starting today, is not likely to bring about an immediate decision in the Scotsman’s case, but could mark the start of a process leading to the overturning of Kenny Richey’s conviction and death sentence. Two years ago (25 January 2005), the same appeals court overturned Mr Richey’s conviction, a decision itself since set aside by another court.

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.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“This week sees the ghastly milestone of 20 years on death row for Kenny but also a fresh opportunity to finally clear his name.

“Kenny’s case is a case of shoddy justice - a shoddy trial followed by 20 years of shoddy justice that has effectively trapped Kenny on death row.

“As I said when I visited him three years ago, nobody should have to endure the living hell of death row. To make matters worse, we have recently become very concerned about Kenny’s deteriorating health.

“It’s time to end the shoddy justice that Kenny’s suffered and this new hearing could mark a vital step that may yet lead to Kenny's release and return to Scotland.”

Clive Stafford-Smith, Reprieve’s Legal Director, who has worked on Kenny’s case for the last 10 years, said:

“Kenny has endured a life-time of suffering during his 20 years on death row. There is clear evidence of Kenny’s innocence that the courts have been prevented from considering purely because of legal technicalities.

“I am appalled that the prosecutors have been able to hide behind these procedural issues, rather than admit they have made a mistake. It is because of this perverted logic that this Saturday morning Kenny wakes up to start his 21st year on death row.”

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

“It was actually on Burns Night two years ago that we heard the news that Kenny’s conviction had been overturned, only to have those hopes dashed later on. Now, on the eve of Burns Night this year, we’re hoping that this fresh opportunity for Kenny to clear his name is finally going to lead to justice for Kenny.”

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland who has led the political campaign for Mr Richey, said:

“For the past 20 years Kenny Richey has been locked up in his cell on death row for 23 out of 24 hours a day. It is difficult to know what the Ohio authorities hope to achieve by keeping him there. I hope that 2007 will be the year that they finally see sense and grant Kenny the justice that he has been denied for so long.”

For several years a coalition of anti-death penalty campaigners led by Amnesty International and Reprieve has been urging the Ohio state authorities to allow Kenny Richey the opportunity to have fresh evidence heard.

They have also been pressing the UK government to keep up pressure on the US authorities in line with the government’s policy of opposing the death penalty in all instances.

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