[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----OHIO, FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Feb 12 01:15:21 CST 2005
Death sentence ruling draws contrasting reactions in Britain, Ohio town
A death sentence reversal that was cheered in Britain created a ripple of
frustration in the sleepy farming community where the murder case began
nearly 19 years ago.
"I don't quite understand why they're going to drag this up again," said
Teresa Irwin, who owns a real estate company in the town of 2,200 people.
"I think he's guilty. I think justice was served."
Federal appeals court judges have ordered that Kenneth Richey, a British
citizen convicted of setting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl, be
retried or released. The state has asked the full court to hear the case.
The ruling was praised among the British, who had written thousands of
letters protesting his conviction. The case also had drawn the attention
of the prime minister and the support of the pope and documentary
"Seriously had tears in my eyes over this," one supporter said in an
e-mail to Richey via a Web site set up in the campaign to free him. "I'm
just stunned that something actually could go right. Incredible.
Unbelievable. I can't even imagine what you must be feeling right now."
The campaign coordinator, Karen Richey, who lives just outside of Glasgow,
Scotland, and changed her name so she could visit Richey in prison, said
she received thousands of calls, letters and e-mails congratulating her
after the ruling.
"It's not that we don't want anybody punished," she said. "We just don't
like when someone's accused unfairly. And the fact that someone could be
executed for something they didn't do."
Thousands of miles away in Columbus Grove, Tracy Bowers didn't remember
much about the morning when she woke to the smell of smoke from the fire
in a neighboring apartment. She had forgotten about Richey, too, until the
Jan. 25 court decision.
"I thought he'd stay in jail forever," said Bowers, now 25.
Kenneth Richey, who grew up in Scotland and became a British citizen while
in prison, was an outsider in the northwest Ohio town where values are
rooted in religion, hard work and a respect for the law.
He came to live with his American-born father in the early 1980s. He was
viewed as a troublemaker and a playboy. He bounced from job to job,
picking up work as photographer and selling photo supplies.
But mostly he liked to drink and hang out with a group at an apartment
complex on the edge of town.
Prosecutors said Richey started the fire in a 2nd-floor apartment June,
30, 1986, to get even with his former girlfriend, Kandice Barchet, who
lived below. The toddler who lived upstairs, Cynthia Collins, died.
Although he has maintained he's innocent, Richey turned down an offer to
plead guilty to murder - a deal that would have allowed him to be out of
prison by now. He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to
Richey, who has dual U.S.-British citizenship, came within an hour of
being executed 10 years ago. Now 40, he has exhausted nearly all of his
Firefighters had to struggle with Richey, who was trying to get into the
burning upstairs apartment to save the toddler. Nita Maag, an emergency
services worker who tended to him, said she vividly remembers him saying
that he started the fire.
"I don't think he intended to hurt the child," Maag said. "But he admitted
it. He should pay the price."
Maag was upset by the court ruling.
"All the money they've wasted on this is ridiculous," she said.
Richey's supporters, though, say there were numerous inconsistencies in
the case. They pointed out that no hint of paint thinner or gas was found
on his clothing even though prosecutors said the accelerants were used to
start the fire.
2 filmmakers produced documentaries questioning whether authorities
thoroughly investigated the fire. They cited, among other things, that
Richey's hand was in a cast yet the prosecutor said he climbed a tool shed
and a balcony while carrying cans filled with the fuel for the fire.
Before the films, few people in Britain had heard of Ken Richey. But
outrage grew as newspapers questioned his imprisonment and death sentence,
which Britain abolished in 1965 for all but a few military wartime
offenses and dropped entirely in 1998.
Pope John Paul wrote a letter backing his cause. Actress Susan Sarandon
spoke out. And 150 members of the British Parliament signed a motion last
March backing Richey's claim of innocence after Prime Minister Tony Blair
pledged to look into the case.
Alistair Carmichael, a Scottish legislator who has campaigned on Richey's
behalf, said he's often asked about the inmate at social functions and
"That's the level of name recognition," he said.
The interest is there, he said, because many doubts have been raised about
the conviction and Britain's growing opposition to the death penalty.
"It's a case that easily captures the imagination," Carmichael said. "This
is one of our own."
All of the support likely had little impact on the three judges of the 6th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati who decided that Richey
received incompetent legal counsel at his trial and was convicted and
sentenced under the wrong law.
The ruling was reported in all of Britain's national newspapers. Reporters
camped outside the home of Richey's mother, Eileen, in Edinburgh,
But in the Ohio town where the fire happened, residents viewed the
opposition from overseas with disdain.
"I don't understand why people over in England and Scotland think he's
getting a raw deal," said Joy Stechschulte, who works at the town's
pharmacy, where an American flag and a photo of President Bush hang behind
Judy Doty, a town librarian who opposes the death penalty, thinks it will
be impossible to try Richey again because witnesses have likely forgotten
details of what happened and the evidence may be too old.
"If he goes back to Scotland, let him go," she said.
ON THE NET----http://www.kennyrichey.org/
(source: Associated Press)
Prosecutors won't seek death penalty for man accused of shooting wife
Photographs of the body of Bruce Stoddart's wife, riddled with 7 bullet
wounds, and the gun prosecutors say Stoddart used to shoot her to death
will be used as evidence against him, a judge ruled Friday. And so will
his confession to the crime.
Despite the severe setbacks to his defense, it wasn't a bad day in court
for Stoddart, 33, charged with 1st-degree murder.
State prosecutor Dave Scuderi announced after he was pressed by the
defense attorneys that he will not seek the death penalty for the New
Year's Day 2003 slaying of Sonia Lopez, 27, inside the couple's Vista
Stoddart's lawyers, Lee Hollander and Yale Freeman, had tried to persuade
Senior Circuit Judge William L. Blackwell to suppress Stoddart's
statements to investigators and all the evidence from inside the
apartment, including Lopez's body.
And while Scuderi agreed the search warrant was faulty because it didn't
specify what items investigators believed were in the apartment and were
subject to search, the prosecutor argued the 2 deputies who first entered
the residence didn't need a warrant.
Stoddart had called 911, confessed to the crime and told the operator
where deputies could find the body.
Once inside, they found not only Lopez but the semiautomatic pistol lying
in her lap, its bullets expended. And they saw three shell casings, the
"Upon further examination, I noticed there was a rather substantial hole
in her skull," deputy Paul Boliek testified, prompting several members of
Lopez's family who attended the hearing to cry.
After the deputies determined Lopez was dead, they stopped, left the
apartment and waited about 6 hours before prosecutors could get a judge to
approve a search warrant.
Stoddart's 911 call and the deputies' need to secure the crime scene and
check on whether Lopez was still alive allowed them to legally enter the
apartment, Blackwell ruled. Anything within plain view of the deputies as
they checked on Lopez will be fair game for the trial, now set for the
week of May 30.
"The initial entry was permissible. The defendant initiated the contact,
and it could be said he had actually invited them in," Blackwell said.
Scuderi said after the hearing the major items suppressed as evidence
include more shell casings and any photos and other analysis performed by
crime scene investigators who entered the apartment under the power of the
Hollander and Freeman also argued Stoddart's statements to investigators
should be voided because the search warrant was faulty, and his
interrogator had relied on evidence illegally seized to get Stoddart to
confess. The defense attorneys also argued Stoddart requested a lawyer as
he was questioned, but the statement continued.
But Stoddart can be seen on the videotape of the conversation equivocating
as to whether he wanted an attorney, and his "ambivalent, or ambiguous"
request doesn't constitute an invocation of his Fifth Amendment right to
remain silent, Blackwell ruled.
Stoddart confessed to killing Lopez during an argument involving
Stoddart's jealousy over other men, court records say. During the
argument, Lopez broke personal items belonging to Stoddart, infuriating
him further. The two had been drinking, and investigators found marijuana
residue in an ashtray inside the apartment.
Stoddart had shot a shotgun in the air at midnight, then argued with Lopez
an hour or so later. During the argument, her three young children left
their bedroom to see what was happening, and Stoddart used a .40-caliber
Glock to shoot her 6 times in the head and once in the stomach as at least
2 of the kids watched. Deputies found her dead on the floor partly inside
a bedroom closet, the gun sitting in her lap, according to the court
According to court records, Stoddart has no criminal record in Collier
County. He remains held in the Collier County jail on no bond. He could
face life imprisonment if convicted.
(source: Naples Daily News)
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