An Interesting Case...
Kenny Richey UPDATE - January 2005
As of the 25th of January 2005 the Kenny Richey case has been reversed and Tony's affidavit (reproduced below) was crucial in determining the outcome.
The June 2000 issue of "Firepoint" featured an article on Kenny Richey, who was sentenced to death in Ohio, USA after being found guilty of murder, because investigators determined the fire in which a child died, had been deliberately lit. A worldwide network of supporters believe he is innocent.
On appeal, Judge Gaughan quoted from an article by Tony Cafe, an Australian forensic scientist. Tony believes he was misquoted, and has been asked by Richey's lawyers to review the forensic evidence and prepare a submission, in a final attempt to save Kenny Richey's life. Tony believes that the forensic evidence is amongst the worst he has ever seen. The evidence is available on the web site. The case highlights the importance of an investigator's work, particularly when fatalities occur in fires. Tony's submission to the Court is reproduced below.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
DEATH PENALTY CASE
KENNETH T. RICHEY, Petitioner-Appellant v BETTY MITCHELL, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
AFFIDAVIT OF AMICUS ANTHONY CAFE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER KENNETH T. RICHEY
I, Anthony Cafe, hereby depose and say as follows:1. I am the proprietor of T .C. Forensic Pty Limited in Sydney, Australia. I have been investigating the cause and origin of fires for over 18 years and have investigated over 1000 fire scenes and analyzed over 2500 fire debris samples.
2. I am the author of The Science and "Art" of Fire Investigation, Firepoint Magazine, September 1998.
3. I am also the author of Aids Used For Detecting Accelerants at Fires Scenes, Firepoint Magazine, December 1993.
4. I have reviewed the decision of Judge Patricia Gaughan in the case of Richey v. Mitchell, 98-cv-1.418 (N.D. Ohio) dated April 3, 2001. I have also reviewed the materials submitted to that court by Professor Custer and Dr. Armstrong, as well as other publicly available materials on the Richey case.
5. I have no personal interest in this matter beyond properly explaining relevant scientific principles and I am not being compensated for any involvement.
6. I believe that Kenny Richey was convicted on unsound forensic scientific opinion and has been unfairly convicted. He is an innocent man who does not deserve to be executed in prison for this crime.
7. In the opinion, Judge Gaughan miscited and misunderstood my published articles. Judge Gaughan cited The Science and "Art" of Fire Investigation, but then quoted Aids Used for Detecting Accelerants at Fire Scenes.
8. The reason why investigators believe a rapid fire indicates the presence of an accelerant is because accelerants become totally involved in fire almost instantly. But there are other materials which will initially burn very quickly such as curtains or upholstered furniture and also, when a fire reaches flashover, most combustible materials in a room will burn very quickly.
9. The speed of a fire largely depends on the availability of oxygen. Fires which are starved of oxygen, that is unventilated fires, will become rapid fires when supplied with a sudden supply of oxygen. For example, a fire smouldering in a closed room will suddenly escalate when a door is opened or glass in a window breaks because of heat.
10. Investigators are correctly told that reports of a rapid fire can indicate the presence of accelerants and the purpose of teaching this to investigators is so that they have a guide when they start their investigation. Reports of a rapid fire are only a tool which an investigator uses to plan the subsequent excavation of the scene. Such reports should not be used in an investigator's conclusion as to the possible presence of an accelerant.
11. Burn patterns can be very misleading and are not reliable in indicating an accelerant. For example, this fire had apparently reached flashover and so the floor and carpet would be exposed to high levels of radiant heat which would leave burn patterns on the floor.
12. The evidence of burning between cracks in the deck was used to indicate the presence of thinners on the deck. I always find that the fire damage around cracks in timber decking is the most severe found on the deck because the fire has a good supply of air coming up through the cracks, even when no accelerant was present.
13. It is not uncommon to find that smoke detectors have become detached from the ceiling during a fire because the heat destroys any plastic components involved in the means of securing the detector to the ceiling. It is also not unusual to find smoke detectors hanging from the ceiling by their wires because these wires are metal which can withstand much more heat than plastics.
14. The chromatograms from the Ohio Arson Crime Laboratory are of poor quality and were misinterpreted. I am familiar with gas chromatography and the methodologies in use at around the time of the fire. At that time, I was conducting research at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia for my master's thesis analyzing fire debris with gas chromatography using methodologies that were widely used in the United States and reported in the scientific literature.
15. I agree with Dr. Armstrong's analysis of the chromatograms. I cannot see any evidence whatsoever in the chromatograms that indicate the presence of an accelerant. Simply put, the chromatograms for the samples from the fire debris do not resemble the chromatograms from the standard gasoline or standard paint thinner.
16. I am sure that most of the world's leading forensic scientists in this field would be horrified if they saw the chromatograms used to convict Kenny Richey. If Kenny Richey were executed on the basis of this scientific evidence, then these chromatograms will become historical documents, examined by scientists all over the world and used to show just how wrong forensic evidence can be. It would be a great tragedy for the future of forensic science.
Subscribed and sworn this 20th day of July, 2002.