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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ohio Death Row Inmate: His Imminent Release Halted By Heart Problem

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The news about Ohio death row inmate Kenny Richey is huge in Britain, where he was expected home in Scotland by Saturday. Richey has spent 20 years on death row, but his conviction has been overturned. There were allegations his original defense lawyer was incompetent and the witnesses presented questionable testimony.

Many people considered Richey the poster boy for an unjust capital punishment system in Ohio. There seemed to be gaping holes in the case that put him under a death sentence.

Richey, 43, was scheduled to plead no contest to charges of child endangering, breaking and entering and involuntary manslaughter today. In exchange, prosecutors would drop the murder charge and he would be freed on time served. Richey's plan was to board a plane and head back to spend Christmas with his mother in Scotland. He suffered chest pains hours before his court appearance and reportedly needs a heart catheter. The resentencing is set for Jan. 8.

The complete text of the August ruling by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that found fault with Richey's Ohio trial and threw out the conviction is available here.

Richey's case has raised serious issues about capital punishment, and his conviction was attacked by Pope John Paul II, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others in Europe, where the death penalty is banned by many countries as barbaric. Ohio state court judges have upheld Richey's conviction, but federal judges repeatedly found flaws in the case and ordered new trials. Prosecutors decided to work out a deal with Richey's defense lawyers. Richey will still be a felon if he pleads no contest, but that may not be an issue in Europe where supporters contend he is the victim of an unjust and brutal American legal system.

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