Former Death Row Inmate Discusses the U.S. Justice System at Lawrence University

One-time death-row inmate Ron Keine discusses the death penalty and the American justice system in an address at Lawrence University.

Keine presents “A Question of Justice” Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence’s Wriston Art Center auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

In 1973, while on a motorcycle trip from California to Michigan, Keine and three companions were arrested in Oklahoma for a robbery and charged with the murder of a University of New Mexico student. The body of 26-year-old William Velten was discovered in the foothills outside Albuqurque. He had been shot in the head through his mouth and his chest was slashed with a knife.

Keine and his companions were later convicted largely based on the testimony of a maid from an Albuquerque motel who told police that she saw the bikers torture and kill Velten in a room at the motel. By state law, an automatic death penalty for first-degree murder was imposed. That law was later found to be unconstitutional.

Keine spent 22 months in a 6-by-9-foot cell on death row before another person, Kerry Rodney Lee, who had undergone a religious conversion, came forward and confessed to the Velten murder in 1975, leading police to the murder weapon.

Now in his late 50s, Keine is the only one of the four men wrongfully convicted who is still alive. After being released from prison, Keine returned to his home state of Michigan, got involved in business and at one point served as chairman of the local Republican Party.

Keine’s appearance is sponsored by Students for Leftist Action.