Ken Richey to Be Freed After 20 Years on Ohio's Death Row

When I last checked in on Kenneth Richey, the British citizen was 40 years old and had been imprisoned in Ohio since he was 22. He had just had his death sentence overturned but not been released, even though not only did he not commit the crime, it is likely there was no crime and the fire he was accused of setting was accidentally started.

Amnesty International visited Richey on death row and said he was treated like a rabid animal. Amnesty described Richey's case as “one of the most compelling cases of apparent innocence that human rights campaigners have ever seen.”

The Government appealed to the Supreme Court which remanded the case for reconsideration of procedural issues. In August, 2007, his conviction was set aside again. The 6th Circuit opinion is here (pdf).

Yesterday, the TimesOnLine reported Richey is about to be released. He'll be home for Christmas. In a "no contest" plea bargain, Richey will get time served.

“The State wanted him to plead guilty and he would not do that. They have agreed to drop murder, to drop the arson and took the most basic minor face-saving deal of no contest. There was nothing left for them to fight about.”


Mr Richey, who is a British and an American citizen, will plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and breaking and entering tomorrow. He is expected to be sentenced to time already served.

Richey's case attracted many prominent supporters abroad, including Tony Blair, the Pope, the European Parliament and Amnesty International.

Alistair Carmichael, a Scottish MP who had campaigned for Mr Richey’s release and visited him on death row, described the news as a “tremendous result”.

“The reality of somebody who is kept locked up in a cell for 23 hours a day for 19 years is quite mind-blowing,” he said. “It is a dreadful, inhumane and dehumanising system. If one man is off it, then remember there are hundreds of people in America still enduring that dreadful situation.”

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    Kenny's hearing and release have been postponed (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by caramel on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 11:22:27 AM EST
    Kenny has been taken to the hospital with chest pain (again) - he has a history of heart problems. The hearing has been postponed until January 8th. Sadly he won't be home for Christmas...

    Good Lord! (none / 0) (#1)
    by Packratt on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 03:26:17 AM EST
    That poor man and what he was forced to endure just so the state could save face. So much of his life lost for nothing.

    Horrific... Just plain horrific.

    Free? (none / 0) (#2)
    by herronsmith on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 04:57:05 AM EST
    I have a feeling this man may never really be "free".  Getting out of prison is huge, integrating into a society he hasn't seen in 20 years may be insurmountable.  My prayers are with him.  
    My heart truly aches for a less shameful America.  When will this end?  

    Justice isn't just blind--it's deaf too. (none / 0) (#3)
    by agincour on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 05:55:13 AM EST
    Buddhism's first principle is that "Life is suffering."  So true, and yet how much more suffering some of us have to endure than others.  

    I can't imagine what it must be like to be selected as a perpetrator and then be subjected to the grinding wheels of justice, especially when those wheels can be set in motion by hunches, political necessities, and just plain, power motivated face-saving.  Perhaps, and to be more honest, we should add "suffering" to the penal philosophy of retribution, specific deterrence, general deterrence, prevention, and rehabilitation.  

    Nothing can give this man back what they so grandly and with relish took away.  

    The sad thing is (none / 0) (#4)
    by Nowonmai on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 06:58:48 AM EST
    There will always be hardnosed idiots that will say he was found guilty by a jury of his peers, got what he deserved, even though his rights were run roughshod over.

    As for pleading no contest, I don't blame him. Even not being guilty, the trauma of having to submit to yet another trial isn't something he would want to go through.

    In cases like this (none / 0) (#5)
    by eric on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 10:03:16 AM EST
    In cases like this, I often wonder about the jurors that convicted him.  How do they live with themselves getting this so wrong?  I know that they are perhaps the least culpable party here, with the prosecuter, the judge and the defense lawyer clearly in a better position to stop this injustice.  But still...  If you were on that jury and you know find out about all of this, how do you feel?  Wouldn't you feel really awful?

    This is something that interests me because I often wonder why it is that jurors don't seem to fear the consequences of a wrongful conviction.  They don't often seem to internalize the idea that being part of a terrible mistake reflects upon them, and they will have to live with it.

    As for me, this would be one of my greatest fears - wrongfully convicting.  Instead, it seems that the fear always runs the other way with these people - They most fear failing to covict a dangerous person.  They wouldn't want it on their conscience if someone else gets hurt.  Why don't people see it the other way, as well?

    Reasonable Doubt (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by syinco on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 12:25:30 PM EST
    Your comments make me think of the nebulous aspect of reasonable doubt. If you asked a number of different people what level of confidence, in terms of a percentage, constitutes reasonable doubt, you're likely to get nearly as many different answers. I would think that someone's confidence threshold stated as such would be in proportion to their degree of regard for either wrongly convicting and punishing someone or for wrongly acquitting a guilty person, or perhaps for both.

    Maybe that's just stating the obvious. I know that if I were on a jury, I would have to be darn sure about guilt to convict; precisely because I am so loath to see someone wrongly convicted and punished. I weight that concern much more than I do a wrongful acquittal, and perhaps more so than most.

    But I think it would be my duty on a jury to try and consider both perspectives to ensure that I didn't stretch the concept of "reasonable" beyond its fair limits. I would hope that others who consider things primarily from the perspective of concern for a wronful acquittal would similarly challenge themselves in the other direction. I have no information whatsoever whether jurors in general do examine both perspectives, nor if they operate from primarly one perspective or the other.

    The process would be even more difficult, and agonizing, when it's not a question of whether the right party is on trial, but instead a question of intent or other difficult to determine mens rea.

    How would I feel if I was part of what proved to be a wrongful conviction? Can't say with certainty of course, but I expect I would feel tremendous remorse and compassion. Whether I felt guilt per se would be a matter of how I felt I performed my duty based on what was presented to me. But if I learned after the fact that there was some sort of prosecutorial misconduct or grossly inadequate defense, I'd feel angry beyond words. Or if I learned that the primary reason for a wrongful conviction was reasonable-at-the-time blind faith in something like eye witness testimony, I would want that steps are being taken to ensure that the degree of reliability of eye witness testimony or such, even from a credible witness, is considered by the court and presented to juries.

    Anyway, just wanted to add some thoughts to your post.


    I'm confused about this one. (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 01:06:26 PM EST
    not only did he not commit the crime [murder by arson], it is likely there was no crime and the fire he was accused of setting was accidentally started.
    No crime? Starting a fire, regardless of intent, that burns a building and kills someone is not a crime?

    no no (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jen M on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 01:47:21 PM EST
    the fire may have been an accident

    not set

    setting fires is still bad


    Fair enough, (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 02:45:58 PM EST
    but what do you mean by accident?

    If the wiring was old and somehow started a fire, or something, that's a non-criminal accident - but there is no one that I'm aware of involved in the case that's claiming anything like that.

    If someone accidentally drops a cig or something onto a couch or carpet or something that starts a fire that burns a building and kills someone, I'm pretty sure that's a crime.

    If it wasn't faulty wiring that started the fire, then what was it? A cigarette? A lighter?

    I do agree that there are a lot of uneasy questions about his defense and he very well may not have started the fire, but if it was a cig or something, who did it?


    Exactly.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by desertswine on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 02:18:13 PM EST
    Fire, bad.

    It's wine that's good.

    beer? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jen M on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 02:54:16 PM EST
    wine bad, migraines bad. ALCOHOL bad!

    I'd rather have a chocolate milkshake :)

    And as for the fire, I don't know, just the possibilities.

    I suppose there are all kinds of levels of accident.


    "Not Proven" (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 03:32:46 PM EST
    The article on Timesonline basically says that although
    Richey did threaten to burn the building down, the possibility that the toddler set the building on fire raises reasonable doubt that it was an accident and coincidence.  

    Threatened? (none / 0) (#16)
    by Nowonmai on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 04:46:19 PM EST
    Hells bells, if every parent/partner/irate losing poker player, who in a fit of anger, said "I'm gonna KILL you!" (or knock you into next week, etc etc) was arrested and convicted because someone died, do you have any idea how full the prisons would be?  

    He should never have been convicted on such 'evidence'.


    murders and threats (none / 0) (#17)
    by diogenes on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 11:46:10 PM EST
    Very few people who threaten to kill someone happen to see that person coincidentally die at someone else's hands.  It will hardly fill even a single jail.