Justice For Kenny Collins!

Prosecutors' Flimsy Case Against Him Is Falling Apart

Kenny Collins deserves a new trial!
By: John Coursey

"When I was on the witness stand, I did not tell the truth." Those were the recorded words of Andre Thorpe, heard recently by a Maryland judge. They provide yet another reason why Maryland death row inmate Kenny Collins deserves a new trial.

In a taped interview with Kenny's lawyer, Thorpe -- a key witness that helped prosecutors put Kenny on death row for the murder of Wayne Breeden -- recanted his original testimony. In a hearing for a new trial, Thorpe refused to answer any questions on the witness stand, pleading his Fifth Amendment rights. Yet the recording was played -- in front of the judge, prosecution and defense lawyers, journalists and a large audience supporting Kenny -- and enhanced Kenny's compelling case of innocence.

The prosecution's case against Kenny was already flimsy, with no physical evidence linking him to the crime. Kenny's conviction was dependent on the statements of three unreliable witnesses. One witness, Tony Michie, was himself a codefendant tried for the same crime. Michie struck a deal with prosecutors, fingering Kenny to keep himself off death row. Rodney Bennett, another witness, is the cousin of Michie who prosecutors admit is a "habitual liar."

The last of the three witnesses key to the prosecution's case is Thorpe, a friend of Michie. Thorpe originally claimed to have heard Kenny confess and to have seen Kenny brandish the murder weapon. But in conversations with Kenny's lawyer, Thorpe recanted, claiming that he had been pressured by police and was trying to help Michie.

When asked on tape to give reasons for his recantation, Thorpe described being moved by the commutation of former Maryland death row inmate Eugene Colvin-El a little over a year ago. Shortly after the commutation, Thorpe watched the movie Hurricane, about a professional boxer wrongly given life imprisonment for murder.

Kenny, who has been on death row since 1988, has maintained his innocence from the beginning. He could be granted a new trial in a court decision that could come in early fall. His postconviction lawyer, Peter Keith, has introduced compelling evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct. No witnesses were called on Kenny's behalf in his original trial, nor did his lawyer present key evidence that could have damaged the prosecution's case and suggested the likelihood of another man's involvement in the crime.

Kenny's case is yet another compelling argument that the death penalty must be stopped in Maryland, where black-on-white murders are far more likely to lead to a death sentence than crimes of any other sort -- and where the question of innocence has already raised great concern after the commutation of Eugene Colvin-El. Kenny has been a consistent fighter against the death penalty, participating in "Live from Death Row" forums since we began them several years ago. He deserves a new trial!