Kevin Keith and the Witness Who Wasn't There

July 6, 2010

A man faces execution despite a strong claim of innocence.  With a conviction based on deeply flawed witness testimony, and emerging evidence pointing to an alternative suspect, doubts about his guilt continue to grow.   Yet Kevin Keith is scheduled to be put to death by the state of Ohio on September 15.  He has a clemency hearing on August 11, and he is still hoping for a court to grant him a new trial, but time is slipping away.   It is important to ACT NOW! 

Amnesty International opposes all executions, but even death penalty supporters should be concerned when serious claims of innocence have not been heard, and serious doubts about guilt have not been resolved.

Kevin Keith has been on death row since 1994, when he was convicted of the murders of Marichell Chatman, Marchae Chatman, and Linda Chatman. The night of the shooting, Marichell’s two young cousins, who were also shot, survived. One of them, Quanita Reeves, told the police that the gunman was one of her father’s friends and not Kevin Keith.

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.

No court has ever had the entirety of new evidence before it. Some of the new evidence has been time-barred and therefore has never, and may never, be heard on its merits by any court. If Kevin Keith does not get the new trial he deserves, it is imperative that he be granted executive clemency.  No one should ever be executed, but, surely no one should be executed under these circumstances.