Larry Osborne, 22, was
''still in shock'' after his acquittal yesterday, his lawyer said. He
years on death row after being convicted of the December 1997 murders of an elderly Whitley County couple.
Larry Osborne -- the
youngest person on Kentucky's death row -- was acquitted yesterday at
in the December 1997 murders of an elderly Whitley County couple. He was freed immediately and left
the courthouse with his father.
Osborne, 22, whose 1998
conviction was overturned last year by the state Supreme Court, becomes
the first person in Kentucky on death row to be found innocent since the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1976.
''We are very happy,'' his lawyer, Gail Robinson, said yesterday. ''The jury did the right thing.''
Attorney Allen Trimble could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
There was no answer in numerous calls to his home.
Osborne, who had been held since his arrest on Dec. 31, 1997, when he was 17, spent two years on death row.
He walked out of the
courtroom a free man yesterday, Robinson said. She said he broke down
the jury returned the innocent verdict yesterday afternoon after about four hours of deliberation.
''He just sat there sobbing,'' Robinson said. ''He's still in shock.''
Osborne was not
available for comment yesterday. Robinson said he was with his father
and was still
working out plans on where to stay.
Osborne won a retrial
after the Supreme Court ruled last year that Whitley Circuit Judge Paul
was wrong to allow into evidence at the first trial a statement made by a witness who later died,
Osborne's alleged 15-year-old accomplice. That witness, Joe Reid, drowned in a swimming accident
five months before Osborne's first trial.
Death penalty opponents
said yesterday that the case underscores their argument that innocent
people risk conviction and execution in Kentucky.
''Huge, huge mistakes -- like innocent people going to death row -- do occur,'' Robinson said.
The Rev. Patrick
Delahanty, chairman of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty, said it's
an example of how the system fails people like Osborne.
''This guy was innocent
and they put him on trial, they didn't have the evidence and they
him,'' Delahanty said. ''That's the system in Kentucky.''
Howard Mann, who helped
prosecute Osborne in the first trial, said Trimble had a difficult case
make without the testimony of Reid. But he said Trimble was able to present new evidence at the
retrial, including a pair of pliers found at Osborne's home. The victims' son testified he had left the
pliers at his parents' house the day before they were killed.
Mann said the new evidence ''didn't compel the jury to go either way.''
Frankfort lawyer Kevin
McNally, Robinson's husband and a national expert on capital cases who
represents people appealing the death penalty, said Osborne becomes the 102nd person on death row
nationwide to be acquitted since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
''I think what it means is that there are so many questionable cases on death row,'' McNally said.
Delahanty and other
death penalty opponents have long pushed unsuccessfully for a Kentucky
ban the death penalty for defendants who were juveniles at the time of the crime. Yesterday, they said
Osborne would have been spared a death sentence if Kentucky had such a law.
''We shouldn't have a death penalty -- particularly for teen-agers,'' Robinson said.
Osborne was charged
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, possibly hitting them on the head, then set the house on fire.
The Davenports died of smoke inhalation.
Osborne became a
after his mother, Pat Osborne, called police to report that her son had
heard breaking glass as he and Reid rode past the Davenport home on a motorbike, according to the
court record and testimony at the first trial.
Authorities said the
break-in occurred on the evening of Dec. 13 and the murders early on
Dec. 14; Pat
Osborne 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
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
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
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.
''He said what he's
from day one,'' Robinson said. ''He said, 'I didn't have anything to do
Staff writer Joseph
Gerth contributed to this story.
The Information below is
from Larry's original webpage when he was still on death row.
Larry wrote the CCADP for assistance back in 1999 sending photo's and a pen pal request.
LARRY OSBORNE – Death Row Inmate #127516
Information provided by the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky
On December 13,
Sam and Lillian Davenport were killed in Whitley County, Ky. when
someone broke into their home and set it on fire.
Two young boys, Joe
Reid (15) and Larry Osborne (17), reported they heard glass breaking
when they passed the Davenport house on their trailbike the night of the murders. Larry called
his mother, who called the police. When the police arrived, the house was in flames.
That night Larry
Osborne was a hard working kid with no police record – but he had no
knowing that he had two problems. First, the police suspected that his mother was the
mastermind of a local crime syndicate. (This theory ignores the fact that Larry’s mother has an
IQ of 54, and has trouble doing even simple tasks.) Second, there had been a series of murders
in Whitley County, and there was pressure on the authorities to take action.
The police decided
Larry Osborne and his mother were suspects. They took Larry’s companion,
Joe Reid, alone, to the police station for questioning. He was interrogated on December 14, on
December 16, and on December 31. He told the same story repeatedly, confirming the boys’
interrogation on New Year’s Eve the police told Joe Reid all the
details from their
investigation of how the crime was committed (even drawing a map and showing photographs
taken at the scene), and then gave him a lie detector test. Joe told his story again. He was told
by police he "failed" the test. There was a forty-minute break in the tape, and when it came
back on Joe Reid said that Larry Osborne committed the murders. Joe Reid asked, "do I get
out of trouble?"
Joe Reid then told a
somewhat different version to a Grand Jury, and shortly thereafter
accidentally drowned in a lake in Tennessee. He had never been cross-examined. He had never seen a lawyer on his own behalf.
Larry Osborne denied
any involvement in the murders. There was no physical evidence
connecting him with the murders.
The Whitley circuit
judge permitted the prosecutor to read to the trial jury Joe Reid’s
statement that Larry Osborne had committed the murders. There was no
The jury sentenced seventeen year old Larry Osborne to die.
IS THIS FAIR?
LARRY OSBORNE DETAILS
The media coverage
the series of murders in Whitley County and the
pressure for a solution is found in TR VII, pp. 899-904, 912-915, Commonwealth
The testimony of the
two boys that they heard glass breaking and reported it to
the police through Osborne’s mother is at TE V, 607.
The testimony of what the police found at the scene is at TE IV, pp. 581-584.
There was broken
glass at the scene and police found small bits of glass on
Osborne’s coveralls. Prosecutors sought to tie this to Osborne’s involvement in
the murder, but expert analysis showed that the glass on Osborne’s clothes did
not match the glass at the crime scene. TE VI, 773-335.
A witness testified
to seeing someone near the murder scene earlier. The
description did not fit Osborne. TE IV, pp. 562-567; TE V, 717.
interrogations of Joe Reid were recorded and are in the transcript
except there is an unexplained forty-minute gap in the tape before Joe Reid
changed his testimony. TRN, Tab 3; Appellant’s brief, p. 8, 17.
Osborne has claimed
his innocence from the time he was charged to the
present time. While he was held in the Whitley County jail two prisoners
escaped, but Osborne declined to go with them. TE VIII, pp. 1000-1001.
Osborne’s conviction is currently under appeal.
613 Zane Street Catholic Conference of Kentucky
Louisville KY 40203-3029 1042 Burlington Lane
Frankfort Kentucky 40601
Phones: Home: (502)581-9154; Office: (502)875-4345; Fax: (502)875-2841
KCADP - www.kcadp.org
Abolish the Death Penalty
PO BOX 3092
Louisville KY 40201-3092
(502)585-2895 Fax: (502)587-1356
To join KCADP, send $15 to above address.
provided by the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the
Conference of Kentucky
LARRY OSBORNE'S ORIGINAL PEN PAL REQUEST TO THE CCADP:
Hello my name is
Larry Osborne. I'm 19 years old, white, native Kentuckian on
in Kentucky at the Kentucky State Penitentiary where I await my execution. I'm seeking
correspondence with : someone interested in establishing a lasting relationship with mutual
respect and honesty, and above all else willingness to nurture a friendship in the midst of
adversity. My family has all but abandoned me in this nightmare, being 19 years old is not
the easiest situation for me.. I could use some companisonship / friendship and support.
I grew up in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. I love the outdoors, hiking, fishing
and hunting. As well as every aspect of nature. I enjoy, Basketball, Wrestling, Rock and Roll
music and NFL football. I like good movies, mostly action packed and comedy. I enjoy
drawing. I also lift a few weights and play basketball when allowed to go out side a couple
of hours a week. I'm looking for someone who can shine a bit of light in this sometimes
dimly lit world I must live in. Below is my address, and a picture of me holding
"The World's Largest Game Cock" (Rooster) at Busch Gardens a year before my arrest. *
( * Larry's original photo was deleted by NBCi in April 2001.)
Hope to hear from you soonest. Sincerely Larry Osborne.
P.O. Box 128