Death Row Scot: A Living Hell | The Kenny Richey Story: Part Two

(One of Kenny's fiercest supporters, Karen who would also become Kenny's partner. She would use his surname and prefered to be addressed as Karen Richey. They are no longer together. Picture credit: news.bbc.co.uk

Continued from part one...

The trial was a farce with a catalogue of errors, even the defence attorney that was supposed to be representing Kenny had no prior experience of working with a man who was highly likely to be sentenced to death despite the errors and lack of concrete evidence. Anything they did have was flaky.

Despite all of this Kenny was sentenced to death in 1987. He spent the next 21 years (as he described it ''a living hell'') behind bars on Death Row waiting for his final day to come. There would constant appeals and his supporters would campaign for the ''evidence'' to be looked into again, properly and this would prove that Kenny was innocent. There were many times when he was so close to being executed (14 to be exact), on one occasion he was just 1 hour away, they even went through the whole procedure of shaving his head but it was called off. The number of times that Kenny was so close to death took a huge psychological toll on him as it would anyone.

Kenny was already from a difficult background and to be thrown onto Death Row after an unfair trial as well as near-dates with death must have been horrendously traumatic. As I've done my research into this case and watched his interviews, I see a lot of pain in Kenny. This is a man who has been through hell and yes, he can be aggressive and very defensive but I do believe that a lot of that is a result of his childhood upbringing and then later when he was sent to prison, the anger must have festered. The threats that he made about the people who were trying to put him in prison may have been extreme but if you were in that position and there were people who were trying to put you to death for a crime that you didn't commit and there was evidence that was being ignored to prove your innocence, you would be angry beyond belief and maybe say some things you might not have normally said. 

He later described his time behind bars as a living nightmare. He talked in an interview later that the guards would play head games with the Death Row inmates. The guards would withhold their letters from their loved ones, play mind games with them and would run their nighsticks loudly along the bars at night (every hour) so that none of the prisoners would get any sleep. 

Sometimes the guards would come into the cells with torches and shine the light into a prisoner's eyes whilst they were trying to sleep. They would also bang on the cell bars if they saw a prisoner asleep to wake them up. Kenny also claimed that he was subjected to regular beatings. 

Kenny would spend a lot of time thinking about his trial which he referred to as a ''complete farce''. 

(Kenny's younger brother Tom, who is and was serving time in prison, wrote a book about his brother's case. It is quite a compelling read and I highly recommend it if you are interested in looking further into this case. You can find the book here)

Kenny claimed that a lot of the witnesses at the trial ''lied through their teeth''.  He also said: ''The prosecution knew I was innocent but they didn't care, they still prosecuted me. They went ahead, they wanted that conviction so bad. They didn't care''.

When asked during an interview with Sky News what he thought of the prosecutor from his trial, he said that he ''hated the man with a vengence''. When asked whether it was true that he threatened to ''cut his throat'', Kenny admitted that he did say that. When asked if he regretted saying that, he replied ''Well I don't really regret saying it, I just said it in a fit of anger''. He agreed that his comments about Judge Randall Basinger hurt his case and didn't paint him in the best light but he said that he was overcome with anger about what was happening. He said ''All the threats against him (Judge Randall Basinger) hurt, that's why they were so scared to let me out''. 

When asked about how he felt about Cynthia Collins death, he said that he felt devastated about what happened to her. As he spoke in the interview with Sky News I could see his eyes become softer, sadder when speaking about Cynthia. A lot of time during interviews he comes across as quite defensive, almost angry but when asked about Cynthia he appeared to soften. 

The anger soon returned to his eyes when the interviewer reminded him of one of the impact statements that Cynthia's auntie gave at his trial. The emotional lady said to him ''I want you to know that you fooled nobody, not me, not that baby, not any of these people. You will burn in hell.''

He responded to this question by saying quite coldly ''She'll be burning there first. Long before I ever will. I've done nothing to burn in hell for. And as far as there being a hell, there is no hell anyway. This is hell. I've had my years in hell, 21 of them, can't get any worse.''

(Kenny, earlier on in his sentence. Photo credit: gettyimages.co.uk

In 2005 by which time, Kenny had spent 18 years in prison, a US appeal court overturned his conviction which the prosecution appealed so Kenny had to spend another two years waiting to be released. In 2007 his conviction was overturned and a retrial was ordered. 

He returned to Scotland in 2008 to a hero's welcome. The press and public were out in droves and his picture was everywhere. I was living in England by this time and watched him come out of the airport on the news, it was quite surreal and must have been such a shock to him. He said that he couldn't recognise anything because a lot had changed since he had been gone. 

After 21 years locked up behind bars and now back safely in Scotland you would think that this would be the start of Kenny making up for lost time and really begin to enjoy his life. For the first few months of his arrival he was treated like a celebrity and it was quite hard for him to adjust to. People would walk up to him in the street and want to shake his hand, he was invited on to talk shows. The press in Scotland were kind to him and he was painted as the good guy who had been though a terrible injustice but it all soon came crashing down.

Kenny was finding it hard to cope with life on the outside, he couldn't recognise anything and I was shocked to learn that he had no psychological support. He had just spent 21 years in prison and had all of that pent up anger plus the trauma and he was just pushed back into society just like that. It must have been quite a traumatic experience for him.

Kenny and his ex wife got back together, the girl he had married so many years before and had a son with. He brought her to Scotland with him when he returned. He said he was looking forward to a fresh start but as quickly as the press and public adored him, they were even quicker to turn against him. Suddenly he was no longer the hero and his name would hit the headlines with the tag ''Death Row Yob''.

It was the start of another nightmare which would see him back in America and back behind bars.

Continued in part three...

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