Saturday, 22 December 2007

After Decades in Prison, Freedom for Man

Kenneth Richey is seen in this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007, file photo at the Putnam County court house in Ottawa, Ohio. A man who spent 20 years on Ohio's death row before his sentence was overturned has agreed to a plea deal that will give him his freedom, his attorney said Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. Richey, a U.S. and British citizen, will enter a plea Thursday and return to his native Scotland on Friday, said the attorney, Ken Parsigian.

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- For more than two decades, Ken Richey insisted
he didn't set a fire that killed a toddler. He maintained his
innocence from behind bars, even though it cost him his freedom.

He turned down a plea deal soon after his arrest in 1986 that would
have sprung him years ago. And in just the last few months, he said
no again when prosecutors offered to free him if he would admit to
starting the fire.

Now Richey, 43, is getting ready to walk free on his own terms after
spending 20 years on Ohio's death row, where he once came within an
hour of being executed.

Richey, a U.S.-British citizen whose death sentence was overturned
earlier this year, agreed to enter a plea deal Thursday that will
allow him to accept a sentence of time already served and go home to
his native Scotland, his attorney said.

He will enter no contest pleas to attempted involuntary manslaughter,
child endangering and breaking and entering, said attorney Ken

"That's as good as you can get," Parsigian said.

Richey was originally convicted of setting a fire that killed 2-year-
old Cynthia Collins in 1986. He stayed on death row until a federal
appeals court determined in August that his lawyers mishandled his

The state was set to try him again in March and to seek another death

Instead, Richey will plead no contest to the state's charge that he
told the toddler's mother he would baby-sit the girl, but that he
didn't and left her in harm's way, Parsigian said.

"We would never agree to anything on murder or arson or a guilty
plea," he said.

For Richey, it will be a day he has dreamed about.

"You've got to try to not lose hope," he said in a November interview
with The Associated Press. "I got that way myself, almost, a couple
of times."

He admitted he was a bit worried about what life would be like
outside of prison.

"It's kind of scary," he said from his cell. "I'm still living in
the '80s. The world has changed and left me behind."

Following his release, Richey will share a celebratory beer or two
with his brother, who still lives in Ohio, before he leaves for
Scotland on Friday to spend Christmas with his mother.

He plans on staying there and said he might live on a farm. Richey's
former fiancee, Karen Torley, from Edinburgh, said he's anxious to
come home.

"So many things have changed in the world since he has been in
prison, so many advances in technology, the Internet and such and it
must be nerve-racking," she said. "I think it will take a bit of time
for him to get used to it."

Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers said he would not comment on
why he agreed to the deal until after Thursday's plea hearing.

While Richey's case has generated limited interest in Ohio, his name
is a familiar one in Britain. He has drawn support from members of
the British Parliament and the late Pope John Paul II.

"To be honest we have had one step forward and two steps back in this
case and I wondered if this day would ever come," said Scottish
lawmaker Alistair Carmichael, who has campaigned for Richey's

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