Friday, July 01, 2005


Kenny Richey and the Ohio system of injustice

I cannot begin to keep up with all the injustice done in the U.S. That is in part because the media do not do their job of keeping us posted. That cannot be said of the Scotsman in the case of Kenny Richey. They have published no less than 5 articles in the past week alone. Richey, who is Scottish-American, is truly a cause célèbre in Scotland, and his cause has been joined by the British Parliament and Amnesty International. Even Tony Blair pledged to look into the matter last year.

After 18 years on Ohio's death row, Kenny Richey has been granted a retrial by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for incompetent representation by counsel. Richey has always maintained his innocence of setting a fire that caused the death of a 2-year-old and rejected a plea bargain before going to trial that would have seen his release from prison by now.

There's one thing you can say about U.S. prosecutors: They are relentless, at least if you aren't a law enforcement officer. The State of Ohio will retry the case.

Egg-in-the-face syndrome

One of the worst features of our system is the formidable hurdles placed in the path of proving innocence after a conviction. Prosecutors have been known to argue against the release of prisoners who were exonerated by DNA evidence—"Well, that doesn't prove that they weren't at the scene"—even when at trial only one person was alleged to have been at the scene.

I attribute this largely to egg-in-the-face syndrome. The notion that a prosecutor or judge should be proved to have committed such an egregious act of injustice—even when it was not originally intended—is simply unbearable to these minions of the law. Can you say "petty vindicativeness," boys and girls?

This appears to be what Richey is up against. According to the Official Kenny Richey Website,

During the months preceding 21 March 1997, evidence was presented to the Ohio Court of Common Pleas, conclusively establishing the innocence of Kenny Richey.

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."

Without setting any reasons, Judge Michael Corrigan agreed, (Judge Corrigan was the foreman of a panel of three judges who convicted Kenny then sentenced him to die by electrocution). He refused the defences request for an evidentiary hearing and dismissed Kenny's appeal. Thus Kenny was denied the right to prove his innocence of the crime for which was convicted.

And speaking of vindicativeness, last week the State refused to move Richey from the penitentiary to the county jail, which would be the normal procedure for one awaiting trial.

What can I say? The great Red State of Ohio is ass over elbow in the scandal of Coingate and is run by crooks and thieves (read "Republicans"). If they were to have the temerity to erect a statue to the Goddess of Justice, they would have to portray her peaking from under her blindfold to see where the coins had gone. Besides, they don't like foreigners.

Of course, in comparison with the federal system, I'll have to admit that Ohio is fairly benign. At least we know the prisoner's name and where he's being held.

Related posts
Infinite jeopardy (12/16/04)
If a tree falls in the forest and only one person is there.... (updated) (1/17/05)
"It ought to be impossible": A monstrous injustice (4/27/05)
No more "Meet, greet and plead" in Florida's Broward County (6/6/05)

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