Saturday, May 01, 2010

Meet the Exonerated: Kentucky's Death Row

Larry Osborne - the youngest person on death row at the time at 17-years old - spent three years on death row, after being convicted of the December 1997 murders of an elderly couple, before being exonerated on August 1, 2002.

Osborne won a retrial after the Supreme Court ruled in 2001, that Whitley Circuit Judge Paul Braden was wrong to allow into evidence a statement made by a witness, Joe Reid, who later died, Osborne's alleged 15-year-old accomplice, who drowned in a swimming accident five months before Osborne's first trial.

Osborne was charged with the Dec. 14, 1997, slayings of Sam Davenport, 82, and his wife, Lillian Davenport, 76, after a break-in at the home where the couple had lived for 46 years. The prosecutor said someone disabled the elderly couple, then set the house on fire. The Davenports died of smoke inhalation.

Osborne became a suspect after his mother called the police to report that her son had heard breaking glass as he and Reid rode past the Davenport home on a motor bike. Authorities said the break-in occurred on the evening of Dec. 13 and the murders early on Dec. 14. Osborne's mother called police around 1 a.m. on Dec. 14. The Davenports died around 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 14, court records said.

On Dec. 31, police began questioning Reid, who insisted, as he had previously, that neither he nor Osborne had anything to do with the crime. He stuck to that story for most of the interview.

But at the end of a four-hour interview, Reid changed his story and told police that Osborne had committed the crime while Reid watched from outside, according to court records. Police told him afterward they would assure prosecutors that Reid had cooperated with them.

"Is this going to get me out of all this stuff?" Reid asked, according to court records.

Osborne was arrested the same night.

Before Reid could testify at trial, he drowned while swimming in Jellico, Tenn. His death was ruled accidental.

But the prosecution presented Reid's statement at trial anyway, over objections of defense lawyers who argued it was wrong to present evidence from a dead witness who couldn't be cross-examined. They also argued that Reid's statement was full of inconsistencies.

Osborne was retried this time without Reid's statement. Robinson said that substantially weakened the prosecution's case.

She said Osborne took the stand at the five-day trial and testified on his own behalf, saying what he said from day one, that he didn't have anything to do with the couple's death.

" I'm looking for someone who can shine a bit of light in this sometimes dimly lit world I must live in." -- Larry Osborne


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