US Supreme Court uses technicality to put innocent Scot Kenny Richey back on Death Row

November 28, 2005

Human rights organisation Reprieve has expressed dismay at the news that the United States Supreme Court has put Kenny Richey, a Scottish man wrongfully convicted of murder in Ohio, USA, back on death row.

Mr. Richey was sentenced to death in 1987 for allegedly starting a fire in which a young girl died, and has now been on death row for 18 years. However, in January of this year, the US Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit overturned his conviction citing several reasons including “incompetent” work done by his original lawyer.

Despite his conviction being overturned in January, Mr. Richey has remained on death row ever since, as the prosecution has continued to appeal the case. The latest decision, however, means that a retrial is further away, and Mr. Richey still faces the real possibility of execution. The Supreme Court has overturned the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that that decision contained legal errors, and instructed the Sixth Circuit to look at the case again, this time using the interpretation of the law offered by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has told the lower federal court that it cannot consider the real facts, but must apply a technical rule that forces it to ignore new evidence of innocence and the incompetence of trial counsel.

Reprieve’s Legal Director Clive Stafford Smith said:“This is very bad news. The Supreme Court is using obscure technicalities to keep an innocent man on death row. Support from the British Government for Kenny is crucial now that his case is in the Supreme Court, if his rights are to be honoured. His original trial was a travesty of justice. An innocent British man was sentenced to death thanks to the incompetence of his court-appointed lawyer. The question is, what is the British Government going to do about it”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “This is very disappointing news and a blow for all the campaigners. It has already taken over 18 years for a shockingly poor-quality original trial to be re-examined. However, we will continue to press for justice for Kenny, including by representations to the UK and US governments.”