Death Row Briton's conviction overturned

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The Independent US

There was cautious celebration in Scotland and in the US last night after a federal appeals court overturned the 1986 murder conviction of a Scottish native who has been on Death Row in Ohio for nearly two decades in spite of lingering doubts about his case.

There was cautious celebration in Scotland and in the US last night after a federal appeals court overturned the 1986 murder conviction of a Scottish native who has been on Death Row in Ohio for nearly two decades in spite of lingering doubts about his case.

Kenny Richey, who has dual American and British citizenship, learnt in prison that the court had overturned his conviction. Mr Richey was found guilty of murdering two-year-old Cynthia Collins, who died after somebody set fire to her mother's apartment in Columbus Grove, Ohio.

State prosecutors in Ohio were given 90 days by the judges to decide whether they would proceed with a new trial for Mr Richey. If not, the state will be obliged to set him free. Defence lawyers expressed optimism that the state would forgo the opportunity and allow their client to go free on time already served.

Richey's partner, Karen Torley, from Cambuslang on the outskirts of Glasgow, said: "I have just heard from the lawyer and am trying to download the judgment. I am shocked but obviously delighted."

Mr Richey, who has lived through 13 dates for his execution and at one point was an hour away from dying, had moved to America from Scotland when he was 18 years old to live with his American father. He was arrested for the murder of the child just one week before he was due to return to Britain. At his trial, prosecutors said he had intended to kill her mother, his former girlfriend.

But the Circuit Appeals Court ruled yesterday that the original trial had been flawed, in part because of incompetent representation of Richey by his defence lawyers.

The judges said the handling of the case in 1986 "undermined our confidence in the reliability of Richey's conviction and sentence", and went on to say that "we find that counsels' incompetent handling of the sole forensic expert in this case fell far below the wide range of acceptable professional standards."

In its ruling, the court added that had the trial been properly conducted, the three-judge panel at the time would have "at least had a reasonable doubt as to whether Richey set the fire that ultimately caused the death of Cynthia Collins".

The decision was welcomed by Amnesty International Scotland. Rosemary Burnett, the programme director, said she was "absolutely thrilled", adding that prosecutors have "14 days to appeal but we imagine they won't appeal because the trial was flawed".

There will be no certainty as to Mr Richey's fate until prosecutors reveal their intentions, however. Meanwhile, Kenneth Parsigian, the defence lawyer who has spearheaded his appeal efforts since 1993, said Mr Richey was "very excited" by the news.

Mr Parsigian also expressed his delight. He said: "It's been a long time. The evidence has been badly undermined. It would be a real injustice at this point to put Mr Richey through this again, based on what the court has said."

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