erasing clouds

From Death Row With Innocence: spotlight on Kenny Richey

by anna battista

"…I have little respect for capital punishment. Not only is it a dirty game, degrading to the hang-dogs who personally perpetrate it for a wage, but it is degrading to the commonwealth that tolerates it, votes for it, and pays the taxes for its maintenance. Capital punishment is so silly, so stupid, so horribly unscientific." Jack London, The Star Rover.

In 1995, William F. Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, declared, "I believe the death penalty to be an effective means of protecting the public from cold-blooded killers who have no respect for innocent lives". With these words, Governor Weld advocated restoration of the death penalty and later tried to get a death penalty bill passed. Weld probably didn't contemplate the fact that among the "cold-blooded killers" there might have also been innocent people, blamed, for some kind of reason, of having committed terrible infractions against society. If the death penalty is the only way to protect innocents from killers who do not have any respect for the human society, then who should protect and respect an innocent person wrongfully imprisoned? Is it the government or the police, the judge or the jury? Surveys estimate there are still 4,000 prisoners awaiting execution in jails across the United States. Kenny Richey, 39, is one of the 200 inmates awaiting a final sentence in death row in Ohio. Kenny has actually been waiting for a final sentence for too many years, 17 to be precise. In Ohio, Kenny is just a number, Kenny is a prisoner, Kenny is like all the other inmates. He's just like them except for one reason. His family and friends, humanitarian associations, journalists scattered all over the world, lawyers and Kenny himself, claim he is innocent. For the prosecution that condemned him, he is guilty, guilty of having murdered a two-year-old girl, Cynthia Collins.

The Past.

In the early '80s, Kenny Richey, 18 years old, born in Holland from a Scottish mother and an American father, decides to leave Edinburgh and go to live with his father in Columbus Grove, Ohio. Kenny joins the Marines and goes to live in Minnesota where he also meets his future wife, with whom he will have a son. In 1985, Kenny is discharged from the marines, his marriage breaks and he goes back to living with his father. On June 1986, one week before returning to Scotland, Kenny is partying with his neighbours. He gets drunk and decides to leave the party. He's seen collapsing into some nearby bushes, though after a while he stands up and goes away. The next thing friends and neighbours know is that a fire breaks out in a nearby flat where Cynthia Collins, two years old, is sleeping. Cynthia dies of smoke inhalation and Richey, though witnesses will say they had seen him going into the house to rescue the girl, is accused of having killed her. The girl's mother, Hope Collins, a friend of Kenny, will later claim she had left Kenny babysitting her little girl. At the trial, the prosecution stated that Kenny had broken into a greenhouse, stolen cans of petrol, then set fire to the apartment in which Cynthia was sleeping because he wanted to harm his ex-girlfriend and her partner who lived in the flat below. At the time of the fire, Kenny had a broken arm so it would have been impossible for him to steal the petrol cans from the greenhouse, climb onto the shed roof and through the window into the flat, splash the inflammable liquid around, set the flat alight and run away. Besides, Kenny always claimed he had refused to baby-sit Cynthia because he was too drunk. In January 1987, Kenny is sentenced to the electric chair and, later, when the new legislation blocked the use of the electric chair, making injections the state's only form of execution, to lethal injection. Appeals are rejected, even though there are new discoveries and new forensic evidence discovered that little Cynthia had already started two fires in the flat. Thirteen dates were set for Kenny's execution, but the dates were postponed and Kenny kept on waiting in death row, always maintaining he is innocent.

The Present.

Outside, trains can be heard whistling, people can be seen rushing. Inside, the coffee machine is whistling and people are queuing at the counter, chatting or gulping their coffees and cappuccinos. This café in Glasgow Central Station is terribly noisy, voices and noises form an indiscernible mix, a buzz which, however loud, cannot silence the voice of a woman sitting at one of the tables in front of a hot coffee, a cigarette in her fingers, talking about justice, talking about innocence. "You see, justice is for me when you get a fair crack of the whip, when you listen to both sides and not just take in what the prosecution says," Kenny Richey's fiancé, Karen Torley, considered by Richey to be his wife, states. "I don't think that the American justice system is a good system because once you are actually convicted, no matter what you're convicted of over there, even if you're appealing like Kenny is, they'll always say that the trial was fair and won't look at new evidence. When you get to the stage where Kenny is at the appeal at Sixth District Federal Court, what they're looking for is errors in the trial and only if they say 'yes there were mistakes', will they actually look at what the error was. There was a judge in Texas, and this really appalled me when I read it, who said that even if you've had a perfect trial, a trial in which there were no errors, even if they've got a video tape of the person who did it, under the constitution of the United States it is still legal to execute you. This happened during a very famous case, the Leonel Herrera case, and Herrera was executed."

Karen started being interested in the death penalty in 1995 when Nicholas Lee Ingram, 31, after waiting for twelve years in death row, was executed in Georgia. "This really appalled me. Obviously, I had heard about people in death row, but this case was so in your face because he was British and Sky News was on it. I actually knew about Kenny's before that because I had heard about him previously, but I really didn't like him that much because I had seen an interview with him on STV years before and he had come across as really cocky and arrogant and so I thought, 'well, OK' and just switched off. At the time I couldn't understand why he was so angry…I do now," Karen smiles and continues, "I wrote to Kenny because what I originally wanted to do was going to end the death penalty in America, that was my aim in life. I decided that I was going to write to this person and be his friend, because I had seen how much people wanted Nicholas Lee Ingram dead and I imagined how he must have felt about all this hate. Right now, there are hate messages on pro-death penalty message boards, there are often serious psychos on this kind of boards. People who wrote such messages often believe for some reason that the court never get it wrong, that killing somebody is fair and it's what you have to do. Kenny's got a message board and I remember once there was a guy called Percy Walton who was going to be executed by electric chair. He is mentally retarded and eventually he got a stay of execution and a guy posted a message saying 'This man might be retarded, he might be this, he might be that, but he's guilty and he should be put either in a mental hospital or in prison where he would become a victim, so sent him back to God'. That's what he wrote 'send him back to God', which basically means 'execute him'. I always thought these messages were awful, so I started writing Kenny thinking that after all he was a human being and he actually sounded like one when he wrote me, so I thought I'd give him a second chance. What else could I have done? Now there's a campaign for Kenny, I did not even set it, it just took a life on its own."

"In America, capital punishment is so popular that even the denizens of death row support it. No comparable nation has such a lurid gun-club following, or such an intimate acquaintance with domestic and civil homicide." Christopher Hitchens, 1995.

In May 2003 Kenny took the oath of allegiance to the Queen from his prison cell and became a British citizen, a move which allows the British government to campaign for his release. Meanwhile, thanks to the "Free Kenny Richey" campaign, Kenny's case has become tragically known around the world, though not as well-known as Karen would like. Many were the people who joined in support of the case, from actors Robbie Coltrane and Susan Sarandon to writer Irvine Welsh and artist Frank Boyle, who dedicated a cartoon to Kenny, to Members of the Scottish Parliament Margo MacDonald, who supported a reinvestigation into Kenny's case, and Mark Lazarowicz, who signed a parliamentary motion to secure clemency for Kenny, to religious authorities such as the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope. "I've been writing to everyone about Kenny for years," Karen starts, then adds smiling, "but how the religious people became involved in the whole thing is actually quite funny. It was 1996, Kenny's mum hadn't seen him for several years because she lives in Edinburgh and she couldn't afford the flight. I wondered how much it would cost a ticket and if I could try to raise some funds to get her over for Christmas. She has got another son in America and I thought it would have been nice for her if she could have spent Christmas with her son and the kids and visit Kenny in between. I worked out how much it would cost and I wrote to various people asking for five pounds. Then I wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, not the present one but the previous one, George Carey, and I explained him what I was trying to do. He sent me a letter and some money. It was very nice and after that he actually did get Kenny a priest who visited him ever since. Then I thought the archbishop was protestant and wondered if the Vatican was also going to help. I wrote to the Vatican, explaining in the letter that the Archbishop of Canterbury had given me a sum of money, but I never said how much it was. The next day I got a phone call from the Vatican and they actually asked me how much the archbishop had sent. It was quite funny. Glasgow University also helped raising funds because Sister Helen Prejean was there and I went to see her. I ended up speaking at the university and the students gave me £110. So we got enough to get Kenny's mum over there for Christmas, plus enough to buy Kenny a new telly 'cos he didn't have one. Usually, he can keep stuff in his cell, if that's not taken away. The first TV he got was really something special for him because it had a remote control and he didn't know what a remote control was."

As stated above, Kenny has been waiting for a sentence for seventeen years. He's now prisoner number A194-764, awaiting his fate at Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio. "I think the worst thing is not the actual death at the end, I think about all the time spent in prison," Karen says, "Think about the fact that someone's been told that they're going to die and they're waiting for, well, Kenny has been waiting for seventeen years, some guy spent twenty-six years in death row. I've been over four times and spent three days each time visiting Kenny. The first time I went there it took me six months to recover from the visit because it was shocking. You see it on the telly, but it's actually worse than that. You go into this huge modern building from the back door, then they shove you in a golf buggy and then they drive you five minutes to death row. You're not allowed to take anything in, though they allowed me to take photographs the first time. When I walked in there, a guard, a woman, said to me 'Is this the first time you've been here?' and I sad 'yes', and she said 'That's the water fountain and that's the rest room…', which is just a bathroom, '…and that's the visiting area' and that was it. The visiting area was seven or eight cubicles with half a wall separating each cubicle, so you can hear everything that everybody else is saying on your side. The first time I went there I was shaking violently because everything was horrible, everything was painted in brown and beige and orange. While in the visiting room, I could hear a man crying, a woman shouting and Kenny kept on saying 'Just listen to me'. Eventually you get used to it, but it was so unreal, it was dreadful. Kenny comes out with all these chains around his ankles, around his belly, around his wrists. Sometimes you have long visits and it's hard to go through them because you sit in front of him, close to him, it's as if you could touch him, but you can't because there's a thick glass between us and he's chained and cuffed for the whole time. His chains are so close that this means that he's got to lift his arms together to use the phone and this is uncomfortable for him. Once we were alone in the visiting room and we put the phone down and shouted at one another. We could hear one another that way without using the phone, but they must have been wondering what the hell was going on. I think right now Kenny is very angry. He sort of had been OK for quite a while, he wasn't happy, but he hadn't shown any anger or bitterness, but over the past few years he's got more and more angry about what they've taken from him. It is starting to show now because he's getting frustrated and they keep him waiting. He just wants it over, whatever way it's going to end, he keeps saying 'Kill me or free me'."

"And the judges spoke with one dialect,/but the condemned spoke with many voices./And the prisons were full of many voices,/but never the dialect of the judges./And the judges said: 'No one is above the Law.'" Tom Leonard.

Often in any miscarriages of justice cases there is somebody representing the law, such as a judge, a lawyer, a member of the police who, rather than representing the law, misinterpreted it for some kind of reason. In Kenny's case, there was Randall Basinger, a prosecutor who was up for promotion to judge, who was very keen on convicting Kenny. "'Randy B' is a very cynic person, he wanted Kenny, he wanted the publicity he got, he was made judge after the proceedings and he became a judge because he convicted Kenny," Karen remembers. "After he was made judge, he offered Kenny to plea bargain. But in a death penalty case you either get death or you get life in death row, you don't get offered eleven years, and he offered something like this and Kenny refused 'cos accepting this offer would have meant to accept of being guilty. Randall Basinger is still a judge, he was made a judge during the proceedings. A few years ago, while I was in America, he did let us into the court to see him, but he wouldn't come out. We saw his name and the picture of his kids on his desk, but he didn't speak to me or to the media. He's getting upset because they say he used Kenny for his own ends. He once did speak to a media person, he did it off camera, and the only thing he said, or rather wrote since he actually wrote it down and a guy showed it to me, was 'Murder 30th of June'. He said he was nominated in May and the elections were the following year, he lied, the elections were on 4th November, he was made judge in November 4th, Kenny's trial didn't start until 5th January. Randall Basinger had told the judges he couldn't be prosecutor much longer 'cos he was going to be sworn in, he was under time restrain, so the case was all rushed through. At the time Kenny was very angry, he was twenty-one. There's a common thread in every miscarriage of justice, usually people involved in miscarriages of justice are young and sometimes they've been in trouble before or they're trouble makers."

On August 15, 1986, Hope Collins, Cynthia's mother, after spending 45 days in a county jail, took a plea bargain and admitted being guilty to involuntary manslaughter child endangerment. It was also revealed that Hope Collins regularly left Cynthia unattended, sometimes giving her sleeping pills. After the fire, when threatened with arrest for child neglect, the woman claimed she left the child in the care of Kenny Richey. "She's silent, totally silent," Karen says, "she won't speak to nobody, her husband speaks out but he wasn't there at the time and he's actually rather violent. When we went over there in 1997 with World in Action, the guy came out with a gun and grabbed the wee guy who went to his door, Ian, who's five foot two and about nine stone, if he was even that, and threw him off the porch and then brought a big dog out."

Miscarriages of justice can result from, among other things, non-disclosure and fabrication of evidence and unreliable confessions, and they can happen everyday to everybody, as Karen states. "Three years ago there was a guy, a journalist, who contacted me," she remembers, "He had been accused of stealing a light switch from a B&Q in England though he hadn't done it. What happened was he got into the shop, had a look around and when he came out the security guard said he did pick something up and came up with this gold light switch. The guy said he hadn't taken it and the proof he was saying the truth was that he was not holding the light switch, the security guard was holding it. The guard said he was going to call the police and this guy said he was going to call the police as well. In the end the guy was arrested. He kept on apologising to me saying, 'I know you deal with other things, like miscarriages of justice, and this is nothing compared to other things'. But I thought that, though it was a minor thing, the implication for this guy was that he had to go to court and, if found guilty, he was going to lose his job, his house, he was going to lose everything over something that didn't happen. I think that anything that somebody is accused of and they didn't do, it doesn't matter what it is, is a miscarriage of justice, and it is just awful that some people can do this to other people. When they put somebody in prison and people tell lies just to get a conviction and shut the case up, when people step over whatever they have to step over to get what they want, there's a miscarriage of justice and this is the most unfair thing that it could ever happen. If someone's guilty they should be in prison, yes, but not if they didn't commit anything, this wrecks people's life totally. Those who are now free, but were wrongfully imprisoned only want one thing, they want people who put them there to turn around and say 'I'm sorry, we were wrong', that's all, and that's what they're waiting for, they're not waiting on money, they're not waiting on anything else, they're waiting for an apology and it never comes. Robert Brown was in prison for 25 years, Kenny was imprisoned in 1982, it's a long long time. I remember trying to tell Kenny the price of things, I used to send him till receipts and I also sent him pictures of what money looks like 'cos it changed as well. I remember we were talking about games, and I was telling him about my son's Playstation and a James Bond game, since Kenny loves James Bond, and he said 'I love this stuff, I used to love Space Invaders'. I told him 'Kenny it's nothing like that now, we have the big thing, everything's small, on disks, and these games look like real people, it's virtual reality, Space Invaders is a dinosaur compared to it.' You realise how many years somebody has been locked up by these little things."

"There comes a point in time where the struggle for justice evolves beyond the personal struggle for life and freedom. It comes to mean more than ones personal cause and will to survive." T.C.Campbell, The Wilderness Years.

Kenny Richey's case took place in the States, but the British justice system also seems to have no good record of avoiding miscarriages of justice. Initially, the phrase "miscarriage of justice" was created in reference to two cases, the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. More miscarriage of justice cases followed since then; the longest running miscarriage of justice in the UK was Robert Brown's case: Brown was arrested in Manchester in 1977, for murdering a 51-year-old woman, and was released in November 2002 when his conviction was quashed. While Robert is free, another Glaswegian, Thomas "TC" Campbell, is out on bail, awaiting a vital retrial. Together with Joe Steele, T.C. Campbell was jailed for life in 1984 for murdering six members of the Doyle family in a fire at their flat in Glasgow's Ruchazie. The Doyles were victims of the so-called "ice-cream wars", a war over ice cream van runs through Glasgow's schemes (the vans were often used as a front for drug dealing). Campbell always stated he and Steele are innocent and described in two books the physical tortures of the prison guards and the mental tortures of injustice.

"T.C. Campbell has probably experienced something similar to Kenny," Karen states, "I have got pictures of a riot that occurred in 1997 in Kenny's prison and they are horrible. What had happened at the time was that there was a guy who was schizophrenic and did anything he could to get killed. For example, he grassed people and made sure they knew he had grassed them, they would beat him up and nearly killed him, he was always the guy who nearly died. He eventually dropped his appeals and finally he was executed, but when he dropped his appeal, he was going to be the first execution in thirty-six years in Ohio. The other guys knew that if they did him, then they would have started all over again in the state and some of the prisoners actually nearly killed him. The pictures are horrific, some of them are really bad, you can see the cells, they look horrible."

Karen also met another man who suffered a miscarriage of justice, Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six. "It must have been 1997 when Paddy Hill contacted me," Karen remembers. "It was quite funny 'cos Paddy assumes that everyone knows who he is and he called up and said 'My name's Paddy Hill' and I said 'Yes?' And he was speaking like I was supposed to know who he is and I didn't. So I let him talk and eventually he mentioned something about the Birmingham Six, so I understood who he was. I went to the States with Paddy in 1999 when we did a tour all over Ohio, in colleges and universities. We talked about Kenny's case and about Paddy's case 'cos it is well known over there as well. We spent two weeks together in Ohio. At the time Kenny was calling me every other day, every morning or afternoon. One day, we were sleeping at the house of a woman we were staying with and Paddy was sleeping on the couch while I was sleeping in the bedroom. While in the bedroom, I heard a clock chiming and the woman shutting it up, then I heard her going into the living room where she checked her emails. Her computer went 'Welcome to AOL, you've got mail!' when she finished the computer said 'Goodbye'. She then came in the bedroom and had to rush back into the living room 'cos the phone rang. The next thing was that Paddy got up and I got the blame with the phone. He said he was leaving to go to a hotel and I told him that he could have gone into the bedroom and I would have slept on the couch, I told him 'Go to the bedroom and stay there till you're human!' and away he went and stayed there for three hours and when he came out he apologised, he said he wasn't used to noises while he was in jail and this happened years and years after he'd been free. On the contrary, prisons are very noisy in the States. When Kenny calls me it's really noisy in the background, even at night when they're locked up you can always hear somebody singing. As usual Kenny now calls every other day, he's got a lot of friends in death row and used to let me speak to them a lot, until I said one of them had a very nice voice," Karen laughs, "there's a guy called Jerome Campbell, who had an execution day in May and then had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Well, once I said that Jerome had a very gentle, soft voice, so Kenny didn't want me to speak to him anymore! I sometimes look forward to his phone calls, but sometimes Kenny pisses me off," Karen pauses, then exclaims, "…he's a man! Kenny loves to wind me up, he can say things very very seriously, then I'll react and he starts laughing 'cos he loves the reaction. After all these years, I'm finally catching on it, but he still says that I'm so easy to wind up, he still does it. I keep on wondering 'why do I keep falling for that one?' For example, Kenny loves to wind me up about my terrible sense of direction. I had just passed the driving test and I was going to see his mother in Edinburgh. I had never been on the motorway, so he's on the phone telling me the road to Edinburgh. He's giving me directions and there's me in the car with a couple of my kids. To cut a very long story short, it took me four and a half hours to get there. All the times I was five minutes away from his mother's house and I was going round and round. Obviously he thinks this is hilarious. See, I always keep him entertained…"

"Even though this new evidence may establish Mr Richey's innocence, the Ohio and United States Constitutions nonetheless allow him to be executed because the prosecution did not know that the scientific testimony offered at trial was false and unreliable." Prosecutor Dan Gershutz.

The media are often not interested in miscarriages of justice, but Kenny has got quite a few journalists who follow his case. "The best article Kenny had was published in a newspaper called The Toledo Blade," Karen says, "They did a huge story about Kenny and the reporter came over here to do an interview with me and with various other people. He didn't tell me at the time that we were going to get the editorial as well and that the paper is a pro-death penalty paper. Having a pro-death penalty [paper] supporting you is better than fifty abolition papers because then they give you some credibility. If such a paper supports Kenny it means that there's something wrong in his case, it's not just all these crazy people who don't believe in the death penalty who back him up. The article, which was 22,000 word long, is actually part of one of the appeals. Kenny's lawyers were very clever and put the whole thing in one of the appeals."

"Alan Fisher from GMTV was also over to visit Kenny and he phoned me after his visit since he was really very upset. He got to see Kenny without glass since reporters can meet him without the glass, but the whole experience was quite upsetting for him. I've had several people who were pro-death penalty who agree that Kenny is innocent. I remember years ago there was a guy who came to my house from the Weekly News. We chatted about death penalty for hours, as he was leaving he said to me, 'When I was driving up here I was thinking that I was going to meet some nutcase, you're not like that. I thought I was for the death penalty before I came, you've made me think.' If I can make people think then that's brilliant, I can't change anyone's beliefs, maybe people do change, but I'd like more people to know about Kenny. Lots of people in England don't know anything about him. Kenny might be in the Scottish news, but he's not in the English news. Once I called the Daily Express and the Daily Mail in London on the same day, explaining them why I was phoning, and they referred me to the Glasgow offices…well, I need more than the Glasgow office. The media are always looking on an angle, for example with Robert Brown's case they had an angle because he's Scottish but was detained in an English prison. Kenny was born in Holland and he is detained in the States. I don't want anything else from the media apart from mentioning Kenny 'cos he never had any publicity. Somebody even told me that the media don't want to talk about him 'cos Kenny hasn't got tits neither is he a pretty young woman. The thing about Kenny's case is once he's convicted he's sent to death, he's off to death row. Nobody actually knew that Kenny was in death row for maybe six or seven years as his mother didn't tell anyone, since she didn't know what to do. It was only when his brother did something to get attention that it all came out. His mother didn't know how to cope with it and even her family didn't know anything. What people don't seem to understand about the death penalty over there is once you get the death penalty and you're sent to death row, no matter if two weeks later somebody came along and said 'she didn't do it and I know she didn't do it 'cos I did it and here's a video of me doing it', you're not going anywhere, you'll have to fight for a fair trial for an X amount of years and then, maybe, because the real guilty person has turned up, they'll look at the case then."

"I especially appeal to my own country, the United States of America, to dismantle the machinery of death which each year executes more and more people, including the mentally retarded and juveniles as young as 16 years of age. This is intolerable in a country which prides itself in being a land of liberty and democracy." Sister Helen Prejean, 1998.

While in death row Kenny's been writing poems, producing art and keeping a diary (you can check his writings and art at the site "Once he kept a diary for many years and the guards destroyed it," Karen states, "Now he writes letters and what I've started to do [is] I save certain parts, type them up and keep them away for the future. If Kenny were released he would come back to Scotland. I would be delighted and relieved about this, but I also think he would be insecure once he would be out since he's been locked up for all this time. While in death row, he's locked up for 23 hours a day. Recently, they were playing cards and one of the guards decided that they were gambling. Now what trouble have you got with them gambling? That's all they've got to do, and I'm saying 'gambling', but they're not allowed money, so basically what they gamble is for envelopes and food. He got a week self restriction for 'gambling' which meant seven days in his cell and not allowed out at all. You always get one particular guard who doesn't like the attention you get and Kenny gets a lot of attention, a lot of media attention. If Kenny asks now to be moved, they move him and that's because of the media but he always gets one guard who tries to make life as miserable as possible for him." There are people who think that once you've condemned for something, once you're considered guilty, you'll never regain your innocence and your integrity, "I still think in many ways that Kenny still got that actually," Karen claims, "because in some ways, even though he's been amongst all this of which probably I don't even know half of, he's very naive and very trusting at times. When I went over there the first time we had four visits, during the third visit I went in and the guard said to me 'this is your last visit' and I said 'no, I've got a visit tomorrow'. He said 'no' and I showed him the papers required to have another visit and asked him why had they sent me an admit arrangement then. He said he would have tried to find out what was going on, but I knew they wouldn't have allowed me another visit. As soon as I got in, I said to Kenny 'they're not going to allow me in tomorrow' and he was getting really irate. He said 'of course they will, you've got your papers'. I tried to tell him that my piece of paper meant not a thing, if they said no, then no it was. He said 'But that's the rule' and I answered 'Kenny, they don't play by the rules, you should know this by now'. They just do that to mess about with you. Kenny's mum went there once and they didn't let her in. They can lie to you so much and ever so nicely. Kenny is very honest, very direct, which is why I know he wouldn't do what they said he was supposed to have done, he's very direct and very upfront, he's still got a sense of humour, a very bad sense of humour at times! He's funny, he's also very very gentle, he loves kids, he always asks me how are the kids. He's a lovely singer, he makes up his songs, the last song he sang was 'Sixteen Years in Ohio Death Row' to this tune of 'Come On Everybody', I've taped him singing, 'I'm an innocent man, but they still won't let me go'," Karen smiles, then continues, "He's actually quite shy, though I know he comes across as very confident."

"There is no death. Life is spirit, and spirit cannot die. Only the flesh dies and passes, ever a-crawl with the chemic ferment that informs it, ever plastic, ever crystallizing, only to melt into the flux and to crystallize into fresh and diverse forms that are ephemeral and that melt back into the flux. Spirit alone endures and continues to build upon itself through successive and endless incarnations as it works upward toward the light. What shall I be when I live again? I wonder. I wonder…" Jack London, The Star Rover

You might think that, for what she's going through, Karen is always sad, gloomy and hopeless. Karen's not like this: she's lovely, makes jokes, smiles and laughs a lot. "I remember when I started doing all these interviews, reporters would come and they would ask to take a photograph of me. They would say that in the pictures I had to look gloomy, they never asked me to look happy, and the minute they would ask me to do that, I would laugh!" Karen smiles at the recollection. "When World in Action came, I told them not to ask me to look depressed because I can't really do it, and they said they wouldn't and I felt relieved! I do have sad memories of Kenny, but the happy ones stick out like that time my kids took chicken pox years ago and I was telling him about this in a letter and he called me up and told me 'remember to bath them, put camomile lotion and put gloves on them so they don't scratch', he was giving me all these advice. Another time, and this was really funny, my oldest daughter, who's now twenty-two, was having a hassle with a girl around the corner and this went on and on and on for quite a long time. Eventually my younger sister and I - mind you, she's worse than me - we were sitting having a glass of wine, and - I'm sure you know what the Glasgow humour's like - well, we decided we were going to sort this problem out once for all. The plan was, we were going to put masks on, we were going to kidnap this girl, we were going to give her a kick and dump her. You see how ridiculous this was, we were just having a laugh. I wrote this to Kenny and told him this is what we were going to do. You'd think he would know that we were joking. He called me up and said 'Don't be so stupid, kidnappings are serious things! Tell your sister this is crazy, you'll end up in prison!' I had to tell him we were joking and my sister said 'Tell him we'll be fine with his legal advice…'" Karen shakes her head and laughs.

If you're now thinking about what you could do for Kenny, the answer is easy, you could spread the news about what happened to him, about his case, about his appeals. There are people like Karen who believe Kenny will walk out free: "In my family there's a thing my mum always says," Karen states, "'It could only happen to our Karen'. I've got the kind of luck that he's gonna come home, I've always believed that, that he will come home. I don't know if justice will be done fully, because nobody will say sorry, but he's gonna come home," Karen concludes.

Outside this café trains can be heard whistling, people can be seen rushing. Glasgow Central Station is a twirl of people leaving, of passengers coming and going. There's a frantic atmosphere around, nothing is still, everything is moving. Miles and miles and miles from here, in another continent, Kenny Richey and those inmates awaiting their fate in death row are immovably waiting for a final sentence, for a final date. There are those who, like Kenny, spent years awaiting, waking up everyday in a nightmare called death row. The nightmare of "the innocent Scot", as his supporters call Kenny, is seventeen years long, and though it might seem difficult for Kenny to get out of it, perhaps it's not impossible.

There are still 38 states that apply the death penalty in America. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, during the year 2003, up to now, 57 inmates were killed in the USA in the name of justice.

Kenny Richey's Site:

Kenny's Message Board:

Kenny Richey's Address: Mr Kenneth T Richey A194-764, DR Man C I, Cell # 2062, PO Box 788, Mansfield Ohio 44901USA

Issue 16, October 2003

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

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