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Kevin Keith Clemency Request Rejected by Ohio Parole Board

However, the recommendation to the governor is advisory, and can ultimately be ignored.
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August 20, 2010

Last month, we told you about Kevin Keith: a 46-year-old man currently on death row in the state of Ohio who is scheduled to be put to death on September 15, in spite of overwhelming evidence that he is innocent. Thanks to activists like you, Keith’s advocates have already delivered more than 20,000 signatures to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

Following a 12-hour clemency hearing last week, today an Ohio parole board recommended that Gov. Strickland deny Keith’s clemency request. However, the parole board’s recommendation to the governor is advisory and nonbinding, and can ultimately either be affirmed or ignored by the governor, who has done both during his tenure.

Keith’s attorneys released a statement yesterday responding to the parole board’s recommendation which states:

The Governor’s ultimate responsibility is to ensure that no human being is executed in Ohio absent absolute certainty. In Kevin Keith’s case, too many questions remain unanswered, and his execution should not proceed as planned.

The Parole Board’s own recitation of facts and brief findings cannot avoid facts pointing to the existence of doubt about Mr. Keith’s guilt. For example, the Parole Board found that the lineup used to identify Mr. Keith for this crime was “arguably suggestive,” and recognized that the “science of measuring the extent to which an event is ‘encoded’ into memory is imprecise.” The Parole Board also noted the there was no “biological evidence linking Keith to the crime.” Unfortunately, however, the Parole Board gave “considerable deference” to the jury and courts in making its recommendation. But it is undisputed that no court or jury has ever considered the entirety of the new evidence that raises serious questions about Mr. Keith’s guilt…

Moreover, brand new evidence — never heard by a jury — shows that another man admitted he was paid to commit the crime for which Mr. Keith stands to be executed. And still other evidence shows Mr. Keith has a strong alibi for the time of the crime, supported by four witnesses. These circumstances do not present an absolute certainty of guilt.

That is why prominent individuals and nonpartisan organizations — including more than 30 former state and federal judges and prosecutors, the Ohio Innocence Project, the National Innocence Network (comprised of 61 innocence projects and legal organizations), more than 100 Ohio faith leaders and organizations, 13 leading eyewitness and memory experts, law enforcement, death row exonerees, and thousands of citizens across Ohio and the U.S. — support clemency for Mr. Keith.

Since the time of his arrest and throughout his 16 years on death row, Keith has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Gov. Strickland — who has in the past stated that Keith’s case has circumstances that are “troubling” — has the sole power to grant clemency in the case. Keith’s lawyers are urging him to review the facts of the case on his own, without deferring to courts that have not reviewed all the evidence.

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