Kevin Keith is set to be executed by lethal injection in Ohio on September 15. Keith is claiming that he is innocent. While there’s nothing unusual about his proclamation, what is unusual is the growing support in the legal community for his claims. Prosecutors allege that on February 13, 1994, Keith murdered three people because he believed that they had informed on him to police investigating his illegal drug sales. One of the murder victims was a 4 year old girl. Several witnesses testified against Keith at trial and his attorneys did not produce any mitigating evidence at his sentencing hearing and he was sentenced to the death penalty. A closer look at Keith’s case offers some good reasons why a new trial or commutation of his death sentence may be warranted. Some 31 former judges and prosecutors are supporting Keith’s claims. At his trial, the police had mentioned that a witness, by the name of “Amy Gimmets” had given them the name of “Keith” as the shooter who committed the murders. Keith’s defense attorneys discovered that “Amy Gimmets” does not exist. They argue that if the jury had been told that “Amy Gimmets” did not exist, it may have undermined the credibility of the police witness. Also, the 911 police logs do not support the police and prosecution theories of the case. At trial, the police and prosecutors told that jury that witness John Foor had called the police and told them that the shooter was “Kevin.” The 911 tapes do not support this contention. The same 911 tapes also show an important discrepancy in the trial testimony of a witness who claims she found a shell casing near the scene of the crime. The shell casing was the sole piece of physical evidence prosecutors used to connect Keith to the murder. On top of these problems, there is also compelling evidence that another man, Rodney Melton, may have committed the murders. Keith’s attorneys claim that Melton is the most likely suspect. Melton was seen in the area right after the murders, he drove the same type of car that was driven by the shooter, Melton’s license plate numbers matched partial license plate numbers that the police lifted from the snow, had an extensive violent criminal record and had previously been convicted of murder, and had told a police informant that he had been paid $15,000 to cripple a family member of some of the murder victims. In addition, Melton had gone to the hospital on the night of the shootings and told a family member that the victims had gotten what they deserve for snitching.
Prosecutors are fighting Keith’s claims of innocence and insisting that he was the murderer. Keith is facing an uphill battle. Post-conviction efforts by inmates like Keith have been dramatically limited by an ever-increasing conservative Supreme Court.
We will keep you updated on any developments in this interesting case which raises serious questions about the imposition of the death penalty against a man that may be innocent. At the very least, his claims deserve to be thoroughly examined before he is executed.
James Dimeas is an award winning criminal defense attorney and author with more than 24 years of experience aggressively representing his clients facing murder charges. If you have a murder case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.