Kenneth Reams grew up poor in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His friend needed money to pay for a graduation gown. They decided to rob a drive-thru ATM. His friend panicked and shot the victim.
During the trial they were both offered a plea deal: if they pleaded guilty they would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. His friend, who had pulled the trigger, accepted the deal. Kenneth did not plead guilty because he did not kill the victim. He thought that a jury would recognize that. He was wrong.
I did wrong as a kid, I’m no innocent. But I never killed. - Kenneth Reams
In December 1993, Kenneth was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death.
He did not receive a fair trial. He was represented by a part-time public defender who did not properly investigate the case and did not even present to the jury that Kenneth's friend had confessed to the murder. The trial prosecutor had excluded potential black jurors. The trial and the conviction were both racially biased. The court was not interested in justice, only in closing a case of a white man being killed by two black teenagers.
Kenneth Reams has spent every single day of the past 27 years in solitary confinement. He was punished because he refused to accept the plea deal, not for the crime he committed.
In order to survive a life in solitary confinement Kenneth has turned to art.
In 2018 the Supreme Court of Arkansas has affirmed the reversal of the death penalty sentence citing that Kenneth was denied a fair sentencing due to ineffective counsel during the penalty phase of his trial. Kenneth's case has been returned to circuit court for further proceedings.
What you can do
Read Kenneth's story of what happened in 1993 and what he has been going through since. Sign the petition to help raise awareness about his injustice while he is awaiting the decision of the circuit court. Additional ways to help can be found on his website FreeKennethReams.org.