Saturday, September 10, 2005

My mate Kenny Richey

I met Kenny Richey in 1990, after arriving on Ohio's death row on 1st November 1989.
He and I were "block porters", working together in the prison guards station. It was our job to distibute food carts to the four ranges, holding 20 cells on each range. Then, the range porters would pass out the trays of food to the inmates in their cells. We were also responsible for keeping the guards station clean, and loading ice into plastic tubs, to be distributed by the range porters to the inmates in their cells. We worked second shift, (2pm-8pm), had a shower then locked up in our own cells.
Mail arrived between 2-4pm, and he always had stacks of it, all from overseas. He had an accent, and I asked about it. I learned who he was, where he was from and was intrigued. Back then, Kenny was this fresh faced, lean, fit young man. We were the same age, seperated by only half a year.
He introduced me to organisations in the UK that supported Death Row inmates. My first penpal was a young woman who lived in South Wales. Expressing my feelings through correspondence was like therapy, and allowed me to heal a lot of emotional issues I had at that time. I learned, not only who I was, but who I wanted to be. I learned to be myself, and that people liked me for who I am. The labels placed on me by US Society: Condemned man, death row inmate, scum of the earth, worst of the worst, etc etc, allowed me to be myself, because I expected to be shunned. And the people who allowed themselves to look past all that, to the individual within, found a person they actually liked.
I was one of the fortunate guys who was able to read and write, and through penpals, hang on to my sanity and humanity.
One special woman I met in 1995, from Leicestershire, England, is now my sister in law. My brother and his wife live in the UK and have a beautiful 16 month old daughter.
Kenny and I "best mates" as he says.
I know his case inside out. I know who he is, what he dreams of, how much he loves his girl, and even what he is thinking at times. He does the best Sean Connery impersonation, loves the BBC shows, "One foot in the grave", "As time goes by" and Coupling, (We argue over who loves Sara Alexander who plays the character Susan the most)
Kenny and I look after one another, and always ask each other if there's anything the other needs from the prison commissary. I am always making him file the paperwork necessary to get things done, such as going to the dentist, ordering new prison clothes, seeing the doctor etc etc. I made him fill out the forms to get out of the hole, because they held him there for not filling it out to their satisfaction. I told him to fill the questions, then add a note which read, "the unanswered questions are ones I cannot fill out upon the advice of my attorneys, as they are incriminating questions which answering them is against my right not to incriminate myself, guarunteed by the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution". He left the hole shortly thereafter. He is now next door to me. One hour from now, we'll be out at rec together....probably fighting over use of the phone. Haha.
Kenny has a good heart. He's jovial and full of laughs. We laugh at the plight we find ourselves in, because its better than crying. It's a cosmic joke, and we're at the butt end of it.
But, I know how Kenny dreams of the ruins of castles and abbeys. I know of his love for a woman who stands by his side, who has become the rock he leans on. He has the kind of honour admired in most of history's heros. One of the beliefs in the US Marine's is "Death before Dishonour".
Here is a man more honourable than those who hold the title "Honourable Judge" who have continually failed to act honourably in considering his case. I know Kenny. He IS an innocent man.But, I REALLY know Kenny.........he is my best mate, and he is responsible for the process that allowed me my humanity, and (indirectly) responsible for my brothers happiness, and the existence of my neice.
I'm a 6 foot, 200 pound, death row inmate. I'm not the the sort to tell even my best mate that I love him as a brother. But, what is important is that I let my actions, in these dark times speak for themselves.
Many supporters hear the stories, and the outpouring of love gives me the hope for this world. If only words touch the hearts of so many, imagine walking beside him, talking to him, living the same hell....and knowing he is innocent. I've read every piece of paper concerning his case. I know his personality and how he thinks. Not only am I helpless to do anything but watch this system fail him, but I'll lie in the same spot when my friend leaves this world. Cry out and shout the injustice to all who will listen. Do not let them get away with the murder of an innocent man.



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