The Murder Which Never Was
The history of Kenny Richey, the Scot on Death Row for a crime that never happened
Kenny Richey, the Dutch-born, Edinburgh-raised son of a US serviceman and a Scottish mother, was convicted of the arson murder of a two-year-old girl called Cynthia Collins in Putnam County Ohio in 1986: but the evidence strongly indicates that not only is Kenny innocent of this crime but that no crime was in fact committed, and that the fatal fire was a pure accident, probably caused by a smouldering cigarette. It was described by Amnesty International as "one of the most compelling cases of innocence" they have ever seen.
The most frightening aspect of the whole affair is that almost everybody - including the Ohio State Prosecutor - now agrees that Kenny is almost certainly innocent, but the State is trying to execute him anyway, on the grounds that it is within its constitutional rights to do so because the prosecution acted in good faith, believing its inexperienced forensic advisor’s false statement that the fire was definitely caused by arson.
Two-year-old Cynthia Collins died in a fire at her mother’s flat in Putnam County Ohio, in the early hours of 30th June 1986. She was alone in the flat at the time. Afterwards Cynthia’s mother, Hope Collins, told police she had asked Kenny Richey (then aged 22) to babysit, but witnesses who were with Hope before the fire stated that Kenny was far too drunk to do so. Accounts vary as to whether Hope really did ask Kenny to babysit or not but if she did he sensibly refused, knowing that he was in no fit state to look after a child, and Hope went out anyway. Hope was on record as having left Cynthia alone in the flat several times before, sometimes dosing her with adult sleeping pills, and she seems to have said that Kenny was babysitting just to avoid being charged with child endangerment.
The flat was not treated as a crime-scene, instead being freely contaminated - the police dumped the carpet in front of a petrol pump for two days, and then charged Kenny with arson because there were traces of petrol on the carpet
Forensic experts initially ascribed the fire to an electrical fault, since Hope Collins had recently reported smoke and a smell of burning plastic, and after the fire an electric fan had been found lying face-down. The flat was not treated as a crime-scene; instead being freely contaminated by fire-crews, police etc.: and Hope Collins initially pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. However, Prosecutor Randall Basinger wanted a capital case and conviction in order to win votes on a Law & Order ticket and have himself made county judge, and Kenny seemed a suitable candidate because he was what Basinger probably thought of as "white trash": a very young, poor, rather quarrelsome working-class Scot who drank heavily. But even in the US being a drinker and having an embarrassing brother are not normally hanging offences.
After Kenny’s arrest a forensic expert with little experience of arson said the fire was started deliberately, and that petrol and paint-thinner were present on the carpet in the flat. Three witnesses claimed that Kenny had threatened to burn or blow up a building, and another witness claimed that while watching the burned-out flat being gutted she had heard Kenny mutter "I did a good job". The prosecution's case, on which Kenny was convicted without a jury, was that he had stolen two one-gallon cans, one of petrol and one of paint-thinner, from a nearby greenhouse, shinned up a steep shed roof to the first-floor window of the flat, emptied the cans onto the carpet and set fire to the flat with Cynthia in it in the hope that the fire would burn through a concrete floor into his ex-girlfriend's flat below.
Kenny was sentenced to death for turning off a fire-alarm even though the prosecution knew it was the dead child's own mother who had switched it off
Kenny was convicted of murder by "transferred intent." That is to say, no-one ever suggested that he had intended to kill Cynthia and it was accepted that her death was accidental so far as that went, however the fire started: but it was thought that Kenny had intended to kill someone (his ex) and in attempting to do so he had killed someone (Cynthia), so her death was still murder.
Kenny was offered an 11-year sentence if he would plead guilty, but he refused to do so. Following his conviction Judge Michael Corrigan then imposed the death-penalty, against the wishes of the prosecution team, on the grounds that Kenny had made Cynthia’s death certain by switching off the smoke-alarm in the flat. This was an item which had not been part of the prosecution case, nor had the prosecution had any intention of raising it - since they knew perfectly well that numerous witnesses would confirm that Hope Collins was in the habit of switching off the alarm herself in order to smoke drugs or to cook, and had done so on the night of the fire. So Kenny was sentenced to death for something which is known quite definitely to have been done by someone else. He has been on Death Row ever since.
Even aside from this late entry by the judge, after Kenny's conviction it became apparent that the prosecution case was not so much full of holes as all hole.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire the burned carpet had simply been dumped on the local tip for 36 hours. When the arson investigation started the carpet was retrieved and placed in a shed, but no attempt was made to cover it up to prevent further contamination. 17 days later, and knowing that the carpet was to be used as evidence in a case of suspected arson, the state allowed the carpet to be unrolled and dumped in front of a police-station petrol pump for 2 days. It was therefore no surprize if the carpet was contaminated by traces of petrol.
Nor would it be surprizing if there were traces of paint-thinner on the carpet, since the manager of the complex said she had recently given Hope Collins thinner with which to clean up paint spills (though Hope denied this). However more experienced forensic experts have not found any trace of inflammable liquids at all on the samples of carpet they have examined. They have stated that there is no indication whatsoever that the fire was due to arson; that the damage to the carpet was nothing like as bad as would have been the case if petrol had actually been poured on it; that supposed "pour patterns" on the carpet were just patches where the plastic in the carpet itself had melted; and that the fire actually seems to have started on a sofa (where people had been smoking not long before the fire started).
"Kenny Richey was convicted on the basis of demonstrably false and scientifically insupportable testimony"
Richard L. P. Custer & Andres T. Armstrong Ph.D.
Of particular significance were affidavits by Richard L. P. Custer, a nationally recognized fire investigator, and Andres T. Armstrong Ph.D., a Certified Professional Chemist specializing in forensic science and the testing, detection and identification of flammable liquids in fire debris. They stated that Kenny Richey was convicted on the basis of demonstrably false and scientifically insupportable testimony, and that the most likely cause of the fire was careless discard of smoking materials.
It was very unlikely that Kenny could have climbed the steep roof carrying two heavy cans as the prosecution alleged, since he was not only literally falling-down drunk at the time but also had a broken hand in a plaster cast, and his arm in a sling. No cans had been missed from the greenhouse, and since it was thick with dust it would have been immediately obvious if cans had been removed. No empty cans were ever found, and there was no opportunity for Kenny to have got rid of them. Forensic examination of Kenny’s clothes found no trace whatsoever of the chemicals he was supposed to have “splashed” over Hope Collins’ carpet. And the only reason the police had ever connected Kenny with the greenhouse was that he was known to have gone in there earlier in the evening to pick flowers to give to Hope: which hardly seems like the action of someone who would later casually murder her daughter in a clumsy attempt to get at someone else.
All three witnesses who were supposed to have heard Kenny threaten to burn a building had been extremely drunk at the time, and differed considerably as to when he was supposed to have said it, what mood he had been in and whether they thought he had said that he would burn the building, or only that the building would burn. One of the witnesses who originally claimed to have heard Kenny say this has since retracted her evidence, saying that the prosecution put her up to saying it: and a second has said that she in fact did not hear him say this but was merely agreeing that she had heard the other witnesses say he’d said it. Hope Collins was present throughout the evening on which Kenny was claimed to have made this threat, and she has stated that she didn't hear him say any such thing.
In any case, even if Kenny genuinely said this it may have been no more than a comment on the state of the property: if someone told you smoke had been pouring out from an electrical fault behind the walls of their flat and nothing had been done about it, it would be quite natural to say "This building's going to burn".
The witness who said she heard Kenny say "I did a good job" has since died, so cannot be asked about it. It is true that she never retracted it: but she was a known malicious gossip and her evidence was inconsistent both with itself and with the facts, since she first claimed she had heard him say it at a time when he was in fact at the police station giving evidence, and when this was pointed out to her she changed her story to claim she had heard him say it at a different time - a time at which he had actually been in hospital having his plaster cast removed. And again, even if he ever did say it it could have been no more than standard British irony, meaning "I did a bad job" because he hadn't been there to babysit.
"There's a baby in there!"
Other and more sober witnesses, including a member of the fire-crew, have said that Kenny in fact tried several times to rush into the burning flat to rescue Cynthia, shouting “There’s a baby in there!”, and had to be restrained for his own protection.
There were three obvious and easy way in which the fire could have started accidentally. Forensic experts now think the fire started on a sofa: a party had been held in the flat earlier on the evening of the fire, at which both tobacco and pot had been smoked by people sitting on the same sofa, and somebody could easily have dropped a slow-smouldering cigarette-butt and not noticed it. The second is that Hope Collins has stated that Cynthia herself had a terrible fascination with matches and had started fires on a number of occasions. The third is the electrical fault which the police originally blamed for the blaze, since Hope had complained on three occasions that there was a smell of burning and a trickle of smoke in the flat.
In fact the only evidence against Kenny is the third witness who claimed to have heard him threaten to blow up or burn a building. This man has since moved to Missouri and has not been contacted for years, so no-one has asked him whether or not he really heard Kenny say this: but before he lost touch he did say that he agreed to testify only because Prosecutor (now Judge) Basinger had told him Cynthia had been raped - which was a total fantasy Basinger made up for the occasion.
"One of the most compelling cases of innocence" ever seen
No explanation was ever offered as to why, if Kenny had truly meant to burn his ex-girlfriend’s home, he should have carried his inflammable liquids straight past the wide-open window of his ex’s own flat and instead tried to burn her out by setting fire to a flat belonging to a friend of his with whom he had no quarrel, on the other side of a thick concrete slab. His ex and her new boyfriend, both light sleepers, did not hear any noises which might be compatible with a drunk, with a broken hand, toting two large cans of accelerant, clambering across a sloping roof right outside their open window. And whatever Kenny may have felt about his ex it also seems highly unlikely he would have started a fire in the apartment block in which his own father, with whom he was on reasonable terms, also lived.
Kenny’s lawyer from the original trial has admitted that he mishandled the case. Private citizens - most notably Kenny’s former fiancée, Karen Torley - and international groups, including Amnesty International, have campaigned for many years to have Kenny's case re-examined. Kenny himself would like a full retrial - though it is difficult to see how this could be achieved when the prosecution evidence consists solely of something vaguely suggestive which may or may not have been overheard by a witness who has stated that the original prosecutor told him a thundering lie in order to get him to testify!
Timetable of events up to 2000:
August 3rd 1964: Kenny Richey born in Holland to an American father and a Scots mother. The family move to Edinburgh soon afterwards.
December 1982: following his parents' divorce, Kenny moves to the US to live with his father in Putnam County, Ohio
1984: Kenny moves to Minnesota, meets his future wife Wendy (by whom he has a son) and joins the US marines
1985: Kenny is discharged from the marines for brawling, his wife leaves him and he returns to live with his father in Ohio
June 30th 1986: Cynthia Collins dies in a house-fire in the wee small hours, a week before Kenny is due to return to Scotland. Kenny is seen to try to rush into the fire to save her. The burned-out flat is not treated as a fire-scene but is gutted and freely contaminated, and the carpet is dumped on the local tip
July 1st 1986: Kenny is arrested and charged with Cynthia's murder, and the burned carpet is retrieved from the tip, only to be placed in a shed for 17 days, uncovered
July 1986: knowing that the fire is now being treated as arson, the state allows the carpet to be unrolled in front of a police-station petrol pump and left there for two days
September 30th 1986: Kenny's younger brother Tom fatally shoots a shop assistant while high on drugs: when he realizes what he has done he contemplates suicide, and turns himself in to the police (it seems likely that Kenny's arrest contributed to his brother's numbing himself with drugs in the first place, and therefore to the killing)
January 1987: Kenny is convicted of Cynthia's murder (mainly on the grounds that there are traces of petrol on the carpet which had been dumped in front of the petrol-pump) and is sentenced to death: he immediately launches an appeal
June 30th 1987: Kenny is scheduled to be executed on the first anniversary of Cynthia's death, but a stay of execution is granted
1992: a further appeal is lodged, and denied
1994: Kenny comes within an hour of execution - including having his head and legs shaved for the electrodes - before a further stay is granted
1995: Scot Karen Torley becomes convinced of Kenny's innocence and begins campaigning on his behalf; she becomes a close friend by post and 'phone
1997: Judge Michael Corrigan rejects a further appeal
1998: yet another appeal, which is rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. Karen Torley agrees to become Kenny's fiancée, although they are never been allowed even to touch hands and can see each other only through a plexiglass screen, with Kenny in chains
June 1998: once again Kenny comes close to execution, which is avoided when a further stay is granted and the case is transferred to the federal courts
"I will go to my death rather than say I killed Cynthia"
March 2001: Ohio State Prosecutor Dan Gershutz tells Kenny that if he “admits” killing Cynthia he will be moved to a prison in Scotland, but Kenny answers "Even with my life at stake, I will not say I killed that little girl. I did not set that fire. I am not guilty. I will go to my death rather than say I killed Cynthia."
April 2001: Kenny’s appeal for a new trial is turned down by Judge Patricia Gaughan of the Federal Court. Judge Gaughan evidently gave rather more weight to the idea of the fire as arson attack than it deserved, as a result of misreading of the work of Tony Cafe, an Australian expert on fires who provides forensic and scientific services under the trade-name T.C. Forensic PTY Limited. Tony Cafe has written a point-by-point explanation of the way Judge Gaughan misunderstood his work and why he is convinced that the forensic evidence shows Kenny to be innocent.
Despite this, Judge Gaughan indicated that she believed that the defence's arguments cast serious doubts over the prosecution case, and was rejecting the appeal on purely technical legal grounds - not because she was convinced that Kenny was actually guilty. The Federal Court can only consider whether or not the procedures at the original trial breached the constitution in any way: not whether the decision it reached was the correct one.
Art by Frank Boyle of the Edinburgh Evening News
There is actually no provision in US law for re-examining a case on the grounds that new evidence proves the defendant is innocent: only on the basis that the prosecution at the original trial acted improperly and/or dishonestly. Ohio State Prosecutor Dan Gerschutz, Basinger's successor, has said "Even though this new evidence may establish Mr. Richey's innocence, the Ohio and United States Constitutions nonetheless allow him to be executed because the prosecution did not know that the scientific testimony offered at trial was false and unreliable."
"Even though this new evidence may establish Mr. Richey's innocence, the Ohio and United States Constitutions nonetheless allow him to be executed"
Ohio State Prosecutor Dan Gerschutz
May 7th 2003: Kenny's case for a retrial (his 13th appeal) is put before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal in Cincinnati. An answer is expected in 3-6 months. This court does have sufficient leeway to hear the evidence of his complete innocence - though only as a side-issue.
If the Court of Appeal turned Kenny down he really would have no further legal redress under US law, other than the Supreme Court which is unlikely to get involved; so officially this was his last chance.
Meanwhile the State of Ohio was still pushing to have him executed. The fact that even the Ohio State Prosecutor had admitted that the evidence shows Kenny is almost certainly innocent was not seen as important. According to the State of Ohio, US law is not an attempt to establish whether a suspect is guilty or not but just a sort of cock-fight between two legal teams, and the death-penalty is not a punishment for murder but a forfeit paid for having picked the wrong lawyer.
August 2003: A recent amendment to the UK's Nationality Act allows children born to British mothers prior to 1983 to apply for citizenship. As a result Kenny becomes a British citizen, enabling the British government to lobby on his behalf. Previous appeals by the British government for clemency on behalf of British citizens on Death Row have failed - but those were cases where the prisoner was probably genuinely guilty. Kenny's case is very different, since it hinges upon a miscarriage of justice rather than Britain's basic opposition to the death penalty.
March 2004: Tony Blair pledges to look into the case and 150 MPs sign a motion saying that they believed Kenny to be innocent.
June 2004: it is suggested that, quite apart from questions of guilt or innocence, the application of the death penalty was illegal in Kenny's case, because the death penalty cannot by imposed for murder by transferred intent. The Court of Appeal asks the Ohio Supreme Court to clarify the use of the transferred intent theory in Ohio courts in 1987. On 9th June the Ohio Supreme court refuses to do so: thereby, of course, tacitly admitting that it was either being deliberately bloody-minded or it knew itself to be in the wrong. This piece of petty spite of course imposed a further crushing disappointment on Kenny and his family, who have been on an emotional roller-coaster over the years; including nerving themselves to face 13 proposed execution-dates, some of which very nearly came true.
January 2005: Kenny learns that he is now the grandfather of a 14-month-old girl.
January 25th 2005: almost 2 years after the case was put before it, the Court of Appeal overturns Kenny's conviction, ruling that the original conviction was unsafe as he had received incompetent legal counsel; that transferred intent cannot result in a charge of capital murder (that is, in British terms Cynthia's death should have been considered as manslaughter and could not attract a death penalty); and that the evidence used to convict Kenny was flawed. The court rules that the State of Ohio must either release Kenny or retry him within 90 days.
February 8th 2005: Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro asks for 14 days to prepare a counter-appeal.
February 22nd 2005: Petro launches his counter-appeal, trying to have Kenny's conviction reinstated without a retrial.
March 2005: there are moves to relocate Kenny and fellow inmates of the Mansfield Correctional Institution's Death Row to the much tougher Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, about 100 miles away, in order to save money. To be on Death Row in any case involves being locked up 23 hours out of 24: but at least prisoners can talk from cell to cell. In OSP the doors are reinforced so that prisoners cannot even speak to each other, so being moved there efectively means being placed in solitary confinement for an indefinite period. Kenny had already spent some time in this "supermax" prison, and said that the conditions there had left him physically and mentally scarred.
April 18th 2005: the Court of Appeal refuses Ohio's appeal against the overturning of Kenny's conviction.
April 20th 2005: Kenny is visited in prison by his son Sean Michael, whom he had not seen since he was a small baby.
April 21st 2005: Petro files a stay, trying again to get the Court of Appeal's decision to quash Kenny's conviction quashed in its turn.
May 13th 2005: the Court of Appeal rules that its decision to quash Kenny's conviction stands, and that the 90-day countdown to release or retrial should begin again as from 25th May.
June 2005 : Kenny undergoes tests for a suspected enlarged heart. His health is, unsurprisingly, not very good and he suffers from high-blood pressure and sleep apnoea.
"Now, when the case is ten times weaker than it was, I can't imagine why - other than out of spite and bloodthirstiness - a prosecutor would fight his way around the double-jeopardy clause."
Ken Parsigian [Kenny's lawyer]
June 13th 2005: US Supreme Court rules unanimously that conditions at Ohio State Penitentiary are such that relocationg prisoners there from Mansfield Correctional Insitution would constitute "atypical and significant hardship:" although the warden of the OSP has at least said that if the Mansfield Death Row inmates are moved there their conditions in terms of time allowed out of their cells etc. will be reviewed, and will be less restrictive than those imposed on inmates who were placed there because they actually did represent a serious security risk.
June 30th 2005: on the 19th anniversary of Cynthia Collins' death, Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers announces that Kenny will be retried and states that he believes the state has sufficient evidence to bring new charges in the case. However Kenny's lawyer, Ken Parsigian, has said that the case against Kenny is "ten times weaker" even than it was at the original trial, and he cannot imagine why Ohio would proceed to a retrial "other than out of spite and bloodthirstiness."
[FWIW it's my suspicion that each successive Ohio administation simply doesn't want to be the one that has to pay Kenny millions of dollars in compensation, and hangs on to him in order to pass him on to the next incumbents like the proverbial hot potato.]
Kenny and most of his friends are quite pleased that he is to be retried, rather than simply released. Without a retrial there will always be people who think that he was really guilty and "got off with it," but this will give him the chance to clear his name in the eyes of the whole world. But Ohio is still making noises about bringing capital charges and reinstating the death penalty against him. A Grand Jury (a panel of citizens who volunteer to serve for a year) will inquire into Cynthia's death and decide what charges (if any) to bring against Kenny, and Lammers has said that the Grand Jury will be given the option of bringing capital charges. Quite how this could be possible is a mystery, since under the double-jeopardy rule Kenny cannot be retried for killing Cynthia by transferred intent, the death-penalty should never have been applied to a transferred intent case anyway, and not even the State of Ohio has ever suggested that Cynthia's death was intentional.
July 1st 2005: it is revealed that Ohio means to spin the case out as long as possible and could take up to a year to bring Kenny to trial - despite the Court of Appeal having ruled that the trial should begin by 1st September 2005. This may be a) another bit of pure spite; b) yet another attempt to hand Kenny and Kenny's forthcoming enormous bill for compensation and Kenny's five-wide queue of journalists and producers who want to make a film about Ohio's incompetence along to the next administration; or c) because Ohio knows it hasn't got a shadow of a case at the moment but is hoping it might be able to scrape one together if it stalls for long enough.
July 2005: Ken Parsigian tries to get Kenny taken off Death Row and moved to Putnam County Jail, since he is no longer a prisoner convicted of a capital charge, but simply a prisoner awaiting charges. But Ohio refuses - probably out of a combination of raw spite and not wanting Kenny to be somewhere where journalists can get easy access and bring Ohio into more disrepute than it's in already.
July 3rd 2005: There are reports that Ohio means to call as a witness a female paramedic who claims that she treated Kenny on the night of the fire, and that he confessed that he had started it. If he indeed was asked to babysit and didn't, then he might well have said "This is my fault" because he felt he should have been there to save Cynthia: but in fact there is no indication that Kenny ever did receive treatment for anything that night, and the supposed paramedic has never been mentioned before and does not appear on any list of medical, police or fire personnel.
July 14th 2005: the State of Ohio appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to rule that the Federal Court of Appeal does not have jurisdiction to rule on the correctness or otherwise of Ohio's interpretation of transferred intent, and on the issues of ineffective legal counsel and of evidence not presented at the original trial. In other words, Ohio is still trying to weasel out of holding a retrial, and trying just to get Kenny's conviction re-instated without one. By appealing over the issue of transferred intent they are making it clear they want not just to hang on to Kenny but to execute him.
There is actually very little chance of the U.S. Supreme Court even agreeing to consider the issue of transferred intent, since it only considers cases which have an effect on existing law: Ohio itself has changed how it handles transferred intent since Kenny's original trial, so any ruling by the Supreme Court on how this item was interpreted in 1987 would be irrelevent to current practice. Also, Ohio is claiming that the Court of Appeal, by ruling that the state's interpretation of transferred intent at that time was incorrect, is over-ruling the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court over which it does not have jurisdiction. But the application of transferred intent to Kenny's case was never put before the Ohio Supreme Court.
It may well be, of course, that Ohio legal officers know the Supreme Court will probably spit this out like a bad nut, and are using it simply as an excuse for keeping Kenny on Death Row and as a delaying tactic, to put off Kenny's retrial for another few months while they try to rake up a case. But they are certainly prepared to kill him if they win, and without examining the new evidence. They are tacitly admitting that they know their case is very weak and they fear a retrial - and yet, they are prepared to kill a man on the basis of what they themselves know is a flimsy case which wouldn't stand up to proper forensic analysis.
July 22nd 2005: the 5th Ohio Appellate Court grants Kenny's request for Mandamus (a non-discretionary instruction to an official) and orders the state to transfer him from death row to Putnam County Sheriff's Office by 3rd August, or show good reason for not doing so.
July 27th 2005: Justice John Paul Stevens of the US Supreme Court suspends the decision of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal, pending a decision by the Supreme Court this October whether or not to hear Ohio's appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision about Kenny's appeal. This means that there is a possibility Kenny's death-sentence will be reinstated without a retrial - and a certainty that his retrial will be considerably delayed.
July 28th 2005: Jim Petro plans to appeal against the Appellate Court's order that Kenny be removed from Death Row: some reports say this has already been granted. Either way, Kenny is likely to remain on Death Row now for months longer.
November 14th 2005: although the U.S. Supreme Court had promised a ruling on Kenny's case by the end of October, that ruling is repeatedly delayed, and at this point Kenny's team is told there will be no decision for at least another fortnight.
November 28th 2005: the U.S. Supreme court rejects the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling over the issue of transferred intent. It does not exactly reject the issue of incompetent legal counsel given to Kenny at his original trial, but it considers that the 6th Circuit Court's analysis of this issue was unclear, and asks it to re-do and re-present it - which is likely to take a year or more. So Kenny is effectively in limbo at the moment. Putnam County Prosecuter Gary Lammers admits that Kenny's case probably will eventually go to a retrial (that is, Ohio is not assuming that it will be able to execute Kenny without a retrial), and that he is relieved not to have to face such a new trial at present. He claims that the State's case against Kenny is quite strong, but presents no evidence for this. If Ohio actually has a case, one wonders why it has been so anxious to prevent a retrial, and why Mr Lammers is so relieved about postponing the issue.
December 3rd 2005: Amnesty International expresses its great disappointment over this further delay in getting a retrial for Kenny.
December 4th 2005: according to the Sunday Herald "Foreign Office officials are to begin unofficial talks with the office of Ohio governor Bob Taft to secure a deal that would see Richey walk free. An insider confirmed officials were examining 'every avenue' to have Richey freed, including behind-the-scenes discussions to secure a clemency order if Richey failed to win his freedom through the courts."
December 8th 2005: the Foreign Office meets with with human rights campaigners and Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael to discuss a plea for clemency for Kenny.
December 17th 2005: a Foreign Office spokesman stated that the Foreign Secretary Mr Straw and his officials were considering appealing to the 6th Circuit Court as a "friend of the court" - one who advises the court but is not part of the defence team. A spokesman said: "Ministers and officials are now considering an 'Amicus Curie' appeal to the Ohio court, as a friend of the court rather than a participant, to get Kenny Richey off death row. We have serious concerns about his conviction and we don't support British citizens being given the death penalty in America or indeed anywhere else."
December 27th 2005: the Kenny Richey campaign appeals for donations to fund the campaign and to buy essentials such as clothes and toiletries for Kenny. Donations can be made via PayPal to user www.kenyisinnocent.co.uk.
January 10th 2006: a taped speech from Kenny is to be presented at an Amnesty International rally.
January 12th 2006: it is estimated that even if Kenny will eventually be freed, it will take at least a further 18 months from this point. Leading anti-Death Penalty campaigner Sister Helen Prejean is present at the Amnesty event, and joins those pressing for Kenny's release.
January 19th 2006: the Supreme Court rejected, without comment, an appeal partially to reconsider their decision to reinstate Kenny's conviction.
January 25th 2006: A play about Kenny, called A Letter from Death Row, is staged at venues throughout the UK and Eire, with many well-known stars taking part, as well as author Irvine Walsh.
January 27th 2006: Kenny has now been on Death Row for 19 years.
February 22nd 2006: Kenny is coping well and has taken up painting again, although not looking forward to the soon-to-be-imposed prison ban on smoking.
March 2nd 2006: the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal begins to debate whether Ohio's previous rulings, or lack thereof, permit Kenny's lawers to raise the issue of incompetent defence (that is, at the original trial) before a federal court, even though the exact same argument had not previously been raised in state court. Kenny's lawyers say that since the state had never previously disputed Kenny's right to raise this issue, it had tacitly accepted that he had that right. Ohio says oh no it didn't.
March 13th 2006: prison officials agree to lower the glass screen in the visiting area, so that the next time Kenny's fiancée flies out to visit him they will be able to share a hug and a kiss for the first time.
March 20th 2006: Karen Torley, Kenny's fiancée, appeals for funds to help support the campaign to free him, as she herself is now flat broke.
March 30th 2006: the press worldwide reveals that Kenny has split from his fiancée Karen Torley and is trying to rebuild his relationship with his ex-wife Wendy, by whom he has a son. In truth, he and Karen had gradually drifted apart and ceased to see each other as lovers over the preceding year, but had not announced it before because they wanted to avoid a media circus. They remain close friends, and Karen is still determined to win Kenny's freedom.
April 1st 2006: beginning of campaign to petition Tony Blair to fulfill his promise to intervene in Kenny's case.
May 16th 2006: fanmously naff band the Proclaimers join the capmpaign for Kenny's release.
In this case, not only is the convicted man not a murderer but no murder has yet taken place. But if Prosecutor (now Judge) Basinger succeeds in having Kenny executed in order to get himself a better job with a fatter salary then there will be a murderer, and a murder in which Kenny Richey is the victim.
The campaign for a retrial for Kenny is in limbo again, awaiting the re-presentation of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal's case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the State of Ohio is still trying to get out of holding a retrial at all. There is a risk that it will succeed in landing Kenny back under sentence of death without his evidence being heard. In such case, he would have nobody left to appeal to except the Supreme Court itself, and probably would be executed.
Once again, therefore, all the people who were formerly approached pressing for a retrial for Kenny should now be asked to ensure that the 6th Circuit Court sticks to its guns and that that retrial really does take place.
British readers should also write to Tony Blair and Jack Straw, asking them to put pressure on the US - not to pardon a murderer, but simply to get its arse in gear and try a British citizen on the basis of the actual evidence rather than the prosecutor's personal ambition, and to decide his fate on the basis of his own guilt or innocence rather than that of the prosecution, within the 90-day time-frame set by its own Federal Court of Appeal. Neither of them seems to have a public e-mail address, but they can be contacted at:
The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP
The Rt Hon Jack Straw MP
For more information, see:
An excellent interview with Kenny's mother Eileen, taken from a Guardian article of 30th January 2005, can be found at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty website.