Scottish man to be freed from death row in Ohio, US

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A resident of Scotland, United Kingdom has been released from death row in Ohio, United States after serving 21 years imprisonment awaiting execution after being convicted of an arson attack in which a two-year-old girl died. Kenny Richey, who has dual US-UK citizenship, was expected to return to Scotland within a week.

Richey was expected to be released today, however, he was rushed to the hospital with chest pains. The hearing to release him has been rescheduled for January 8, 2008, spoiling Richey's plans to be back in Scotland for Christmas. He has suffered at least three heart attacks in the last three years.

The 43-year-old man had moved to Ohio to join his American father at 18. A week before he was due to return to Scotland, in 1986, a fire broke out which killed two-year-old Cynthia Collins. He was convicted of starting the fire, which was alleged to be aimed at a former girlfriend of his, who resided in the flat above.

His original conviction was overturned in August by the Cincinnati court of appeal, which ruled his defence team had mishandled the case. This resulted in his temporary transfer to a low-security prison.

It has now emerged that he has arranged a plea bargain that will ensure his release, in which he will plead no contest to charges of attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and breaking and entering. His sentence for these offenses will be time already served.

"Kenny didn't commit the crime he was charged of, and thank goodness now the American prosecutor recognises it," human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, a representative of Richey, told BBC Radio 4. "On Saturday, he will get to be home with his mother for the first time in 21 years. That's wonderful news. This poor child died in a fire that was an accident, and this man has spent 21 years and 173 days in prison, facing the death penalty, for a crime he didn't commit. If there's any better example of why the death penalty is wrong, I don't know what it is."

Ken Parsigan, solicitor for Richey, told reporters that the agreement was "as close to the state admitting it was wrong as we are going to get".

An employee in the office of Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers said he would be unavailable for comment until after Thursday's hearing, which has now been rescheduled for January 8 by visiting Judge Alan Travis.

Richey was almost executed thirteen years ago; on that occasion, he came within an hour of being killed.