The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit re-affirmed its 2005 ruling that Kenny Richey’s capital conviction and death sentence should be overturned because he received inadequate representation at trial. Richey is on death row for the 1986 arson murder of a two-year-old girl who was in his care, an event that he maintains was an accident. Richey is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Scotland, having been raised in Scotland before coming to Ohio. The Sixth Circuit ruled 2-1 that Richey’s trial attorney failed to adequately challenge questionable arson evidence at trial, noting, “The deficient performance of Richey’s counsel undermines our confidence in the outcome of his trial… . Confronted with evidence debunking the state’s scientific conclusions, the trial court might have had a reasonable doubt about Richey’s guilt, especially where the prosecution’s case depended on a cast of witnesses whose lives revolved around drinking and partying and some of whom might have had their own motives for implicating Richey.”

The Court’s 2005 ruling was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court and sent back to the Sixth Circuit to consider whether Richey had lost his right to present evidence of ineffectiveness of counsel that had not been raised in state court. In its ruling this month, the Sixth Circuit held that Richey’s claim was proper and reinstated the 2005 order overturning his conviction. County Prosecutor Gary Lammers said he believes the Ohio Attorney General will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear another appeal based on the Circuit Court’s latest ruling, but added that retrying the case could be difficult because of the time that has elapsed since Richey’s 1987 conviction. Richey’s fight to prove his innocence has spanned more than two decades and has drawn attention in Europe and the U.S. The late Pope John Paul II and a former Archbishop of Canterbury are among those who urged the courts to free Richey, whose efforts to prove his innocence led him to turn down a plea bargain that would have freed him after 11 years in prison.

“Kenny Richey has served 21 years in prison for a crime that never should have been a death penalty case to begin with,” said Richey’s attorney, Kenneth Parsigian. “The 6th Circuit has twice found he was wrongly convicted. Now is not the time to be vengeful, spiteful, or prideful about prosecutorial skill. It’s time for justice. It’s time to let Kenny move on with his life.”
(The Times of London, August 11, 2007 and Toledo Blade, August 11, 2007). See Innocence.