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Who is Kevin Keith?

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July 20, 2010

Kevin Keith is a 46-year-old man currently on death row in the state of Ohio. Keith is scheduled to be put to death on September 15, in spite of overwhelming evidence that he is an innocent man.

Groups including the Ohio Innocence Project, the National Innocence Network, and a group of leading eyewitness and memory experts are petitioning to urge the Ohio Parole Board and Gov. Ted Strickland to grant clemency to Kevin Keith.

Keith has been on death row since 1994, when he was convicted of killing three people and wounding others. Keith was convicted of these crimes based on faulty eyewitness identification – the leading cause of wrongful convictions nationwide. In fact, Keith’s alibi for the time of the crime is supported by four witnesses, and there is no forensic evidence that conclusively links him to the crime.

In 2007, after Keith had exhausted his appeals, new counsel took on his case, and after conducting their own investigation, discovered new evidence that supported Keith’s innocence, which he has maintained from the start.

The new evidence included: evidence that the police fabricated a witness to bolster shaky identification testimony by a surviving victim and evidence that points to another suspect. Thirteen years after he was convicted, Keith’s lawyers discovered that one of the state’s “witnesses” never actually existed, and that police at his trial testified about a fictitious person and attributed a statement to her.

A recent Amnesty International blog about Keith’s case states:

The prosecution’s case relied on the nurse of a third survivor, Richard Warren. Police testified that the nurse, Amy Gimmets, said that Warren had given her the name ‘Kevin’. Slight problem: in 2007, through a comprehensive search of hospital and Ohio records, it was discovered that Amy Gimmets never existed. Amy Whisman, Warren’s actual nurse, was not told who the gunman was, and Richard Warren initially told four people he did not know who the killer was. Kevin Keith’s attorneys have looked into Warren’s identification of Kevin Keith, and concluded that it was tainted by many factors, including a highly suggestive photo line-up where Mr. Keith’s face appeared larger than the others. (emphasis theirs)

The new evidence also further implicates an alternative suspect with a violent criminal history who told a police informant that he was paid to carry out the murders for which Keith is scheduled to die. The police, aware of the statements by the alternative suspect, never turned this information over to Keith’s counsel.

In May, Keith’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial based on the additional evidence, which is still pending. And on August 11, the state of Ohio will hold a clemency hearing in his case.

You can help by adding your name to the petition urging the Ohio Parole Board and Gov. Ted Strickland to grant clemency to Kevin Keith. The letter states:

No court has ever had the entirety of new evidence before it…Mr. Keith has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest and throughout his 16 years on death row. The State of Ohio now risks putting to death an innocent man with no jury ever hearing the entirety of evidence of innocence…I appeal to the Ohio Parole Board and Governor Strickland to grant clemency to Kevin Keith.

Learn more about Kevin Keith’s case here, and sign the petition here.

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