So Kenny Richey’s finally returned to Scotland? There have been so many twists in this 20 year saga that you really could not have made it up – and remained credible.
The latest chapter is that, after flying into a press conference with assembled media pack at Edinburgh Airport, Richey was then hustled away by minders from the Mail on Sunday, the People and Sky News, who between them have forked out £40,000 for his story.
I know some people will feel that is particularly sordid and smacks of profiteering from a nasty series of events, which started out with an innocent little girl being killed in an arson attack.
Lucky for Kenny that his crime happened on American soil. If he’d been convicted in this country, the law would prevent him from earning a single cent from talking or writing about it.
However, I don’t blame any of the media involved for exploiting the loophole and signing him up – there are few things as exhilirating as a high-profile media war to buy up a cracking story. It gets the blood singing and this is one the punters will definitely want to read about.
Meanwhile, Richey has served more than 20 years in the degrading and inhumane conditions of Death Row – most of it in sanity-challenging solitary confinement. During that time he has never wavered in his claims of innocence.
I was a young hack at the Evening News when this story broke 20 odd years ago and we were all pretty excited about it – with all the young Turks of the time jostling and competing with each other to get on this plum story.
It wasn’t just that Kenny was on Death Row – but also that his brother was serving 65 years for murder in another American jail. It was about as good as a story you were likely to be involved in working in douce auld Edinburgh, which back then was known as a bit of story sleepy hollow.
There were also some fantastic pics, because both the Richey boys had served in the US military and there were some superb collects of them in full uniform. Since it predated the internet by a long way and with no access to the US jail for the TV boys at the time, you can see why the story was newspaper heaven.
After the frenzy of the first couple of months died down though, my bosses at the Evening News at the time (editor Terry Quinn and news editor Simon Bradshaw) got really fed up with the notion that, because he was a Brit abroad, then Death Row Kenny must be innocent.
After months when every cought and fart was reported in depth, the bosses also sent out an edict banning anything but really major Richey developments – and making it clear the only way it would get back on to the front page was if Kenny was “fried or freed”. Charming.
I don’t think any of us at the time believed Richey was innocent. Certainly my old partner in crime Stephen Rafferty has made his views on this pretty clear over on his blog (read here) and I’m pretty much in agreement with him.
However, I’m no fan of the death penalty and as far as I’m concerned he’s done his time.
Anyway, while he may have escaped the clutches of America’s state sanctioned murder machine, it seems Richey is still under a death sentence of sorts.
His health is ruined and his heart could give out at any time. I believe he smokes heavily and as these pictures show he has the puffy look of someone with a love of fried (no pun intended) food.
So, welcome back to Scotland, Kenny – with a lifestyle like that, you’ll fit right in! You’re no longer a Condemned man in America – just one of one of many Scots who qualify as the Sick Men of Europe.