The highest court in America yesterday threw out a decision to quash the conviction of a Briton who has been on death row for 18 years.
His family was hoping for a retrial at which new evidence would clear his name, but prosecutors lodged an appeal against the ruling.
Now the Supreme Court has found that the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong to rule in his favour, and has directed the judges to reconsider their decision.
Richey, 41, who was brought up in Edinburgh and moved to America when he was 18, has been on death row since 1987 for killing two-year-old Cynthia Collins in Columbus Grove, Ohio.
This compelling evidence was submitted to support a bid for a hearing to allow Kenny’s defence team to show that the case was a tragic miscarriage of justice.
The state prosecution did not dispute the accuracy of the new evidence.
Prosecution Dan Gershutz said, “Even though this new evidence may establish Mr Richey’s innocence, the Ohio and United States constitution nonetheless allow him to be executed because the prosecution did not know that the scientific testimony offered at the trial was false and unreliable.”
– Quoted at The Official Kenney Richey Campaign site
A prosecutor was trying to block a death row inmate from having his conviction reopened on the basis of new evidence, and Judge Stith, of the Missouri Supreme Court, was getting exasperated. “Are you suggesting,” she asked the prosecutor, that “even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?”
Frank A. Jung, an assistant state attorney general, replied, “That’s correct, your honor.”
That exchange was, legal experts say, unusual only for its frankness.
After a trial and appeal, many prosecutors say, new evidence of claimed innocence should generally not be considered by the courts.
Newspaper report on a different case
He has always claimed he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, and his family hoped after a long campaign that he would be set free.
The lower court ruled in January that he had not received proper legal assistance at his original trial, and that there was no proof he intended to kill the girl. It said Richey was outside the apartment at the time and risked his life to save the child.
According to Richey’s lawyer, Kenneth Parsigian, investigators initially concluded that a faulty fan caused the fire, and the building manager threw out carpets and other potential evidence before the trial.
Pope John Paul II wrote a letter backing his cause, and 150 MPs signed a motion backing his claim of innocence after Tony Blair promised to look into the case.
Prosecutors at his trial claimed he started the fire in a bid to harm his former girlfriend, who was in the apartment with her new boyfriend.
He was sentenced to death by the electric chair following a four-and-a-half day trial. Since then, 13 dates have been set for his execution.
His brother Steve, 39, speaking from his home in Cloverdale, Ohio, said the family was “crushed” by the latest decision and now felt he would never be set free.
He said: “I just can’t take it in. This was the last thing we expected to happen.
“I talked to him last week and we thought that because there had been no news that something good would happen. Boy, we were so wrong.”
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