Now what do we know about Death Row? Only that it’s deathly dull.

Freed RicheyHaving paid a hefty wedge of cash to persuade reprieved Kenny Richey to tell all about his 21 years on Death Row in America, the Scottish Mail On Sunday were no doubt hoping for some story dynamite.

They must have been sadly disappointed by what they got.

The simple facts are these: Kenny Richey’s last days as a free man were spent as a booze and drug-addled miscreant with a penchant for petty crime.

The only case I can think of where such a seedy and unsavoury existence has been worth reading about was the case of James Ellroy. Except he was driven to drugs and robbing houses by the murder of his mother while he was still in junior school. And was almost driven insanse by his obsession over the parallels between her death and the celebrated case of the Black Dahlia.

Ellroy also disovered a rare talent for writing which was to prove his salvation while he was in and out of jail. Not to mention that his misdemeanours – and near Damascene conversion – were played out against the backdrop of glamour and broken dreams that is Hollywood and Los Angeles (not the mundane, middle America of Bumf*ck, Ohio).

Kenny Richey, on the other hand, had no such colourful or grisly early life trauma to blame for his casually criminal and anti-social behaviour. Nor did he discover any prodigious -but previously hidden talent – while serving his time.

Indeed, he seems to have been confined to a concrete box not much bigger than a coffin with only his own drearily ordinary thoughts for company for the best part of two decades.

All of which means poor old Kenny is a bit of a dull lad and that the Mail On Sunday’s exclusive (which, rumour has it, cost them the thick end of £15,000), was a bit of a yawn.

No slight intended on the talents of the paper’s stalwart writers Jane Simpson and Patricia Kane, who had the unenviable job of trying to turn this into a riveting middle market read.

This story was all wrong for the Mail on Sunday demographic. It started out with jakeys, junkies and jobless white trash. Richey as the central character is unsympathetic and difficult to warm to. The alleged miscarriage of justice simply isn’t strong enough to light a fire of righteous indignation in anybody’s belly.

Finally, and most tellingly, pretty much nothing of great interest happened in 21 years. Death Row, it would seem, is a pretty dull place. Sure, Richey had his head shaved, ordered his last meal and was an hour away from Ol’ Sparky, but that has been well-documented.

If the Daily Mail hoped the decades of soul-searching meant Richey was going to come up with a searingly poignant account of his time, they were sadly mistaken.

There is also no doubt that Richey has come out the other end of a rigidly institutional existence, cruelly calculated to be as unedifying as possible. In the hands of a Pulitzer writer with the time and access to chronicle Richey coming to terms with his new life, this may one day make a compelling story. It would be helped by the redemptive quality that would come from either a complete exoneration – or a final admission of guilt.

At the moment though it is a pile of old tosh. And the Mail on Sunday wasted their money.

What finally soured the whole story for me though was the news that Richey is now  to remarry the wife who left him two years before he was jailed and who he has barely seen since. Bumf*ck, Ohio, indeed.


4 thoughts on “Now what do we know about Death Row? Only that it’s deathly dull.

  1. Didn’t buy the MoS Scotty, couldn’t be bothered reading another word about this dullard but no doubt your assessment is top notch. Was out with a couple of ex cops last night who remember him as a petty ned who hung about Tollcross, wanted to be a big man but never was. And they questioned his “coming home” routine as he was born in Holland to an American father and pissed off to the States as soon as he was old enough. Have a look at the reader’s comments on yesterday’s Evening News story on Ritchie and the consensus is nobody cares about this loser and Ol’ Sparky would have been doing us all a favour. And oh, did you really mean to say “light a fire or righteous indignation”?

  2. Raff – that all sounds about right.
    I’m trying hard not be fascinated by this case. But I cannae help myself since it was such a big story back in the day when we all started out on the Evening News.
    I’m with you and your cop pals – Richey was an unpleasant, deadbeat loser and I suspected he embraced a life of petty crime with enthusiasm. I’ve read nothing that suggests 21 years on Death Row has redeemed him in any way.
    However, I suspect this story will have another couple of twists to keep the papers busy.
    Thanks for pointing out my latest literal! No matter how hard I try, I still have the worst typing “sausages fingers” in Christendom.

  3. Well Scotty boy I must take exception to your comments on our Kenny Richey exclusive. The Scottish edition if the MoS increased its circulation by a whopping 32% after Sunday’s revelations. Appears there is an appetite for the Richey story after all amongst the good people of this country.
    Anyway, it was a good old-fashioned, well organised newspaper operation to keep Richey away from the rest of the press pack…
    Just like the way I taught you to operate all those years ago in the Evening News and The Record.

  4. Crowski – A welcome to you and thanks for commenting.

    Firstly, congrats on the circulation figures – they do more talking than anything (either fans or critics could say). A deserved result for a job well done.

    As you might expect, in these troubled times for newspapers, I am delighted to see someone staging a good,old-fashioned buy up on a big story. And as I would expect from you and the quality team at the MoS, this was a text book case.

    Likewise no argument with the job done by Jane and Patricia, both journalists who more than live up to their hard-earned reputations. The writing was everything I’d expect from the MoS.

    Anything which brings readers back to newspapes in the numbers this story has is to be welcomed- and you’ve more than justified whatever was spent on securing the exclusive with this impressive spike in readers.

    So I can only suspect that the icing on the cake would have been if the charmless man himself had something noteworthy to say! Even your top team can’t create a chic new Burberry shellsuit from a pile of dishrags!

    I’ve seen or read nothing that redeems Mr Richey or makes him seem anything more than a scabrous, schemie weasel who I suspect has convinced himself of his innocence – and can now hardly believe that a surprising large number of other people have also bought his version of events.

    So congrats on a job well done – but I still think the story is a stinker. And my opinion must count for soemthing with you – as you point out, I learnt at the knee of a master!

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