updated 12/19/2007 2:50:55 PM ET 2007-12-19T19:50:55

A man who spent 20 years on Ohio's death row before his sentence was overturned has agreed to a plea deal that will give him his freedom, his attorney said Wednesday.

Ken Richey, a U.S. and British citizen, will enter a plea Thursday and return to his native Scotland on Friday, said the attorney, Ken Parsigian.

Richey was convicted of murder 20 years ago in a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl. Prosecutors said Richey set the northwest Ohio blaze to get even with his former girlfriend, who lived in the same apartment building as the toddler.

A federal appeals court ruled in August that Richey's former lawyer mishandled his case and ordered prosecutors to try Richey again or release him.

The state had been set to try him again in March. Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers declined comment until after Thursday's plea hearing.

Instead, he will plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and breaking and entering, and be sentenced to time already served, Parsigian said. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but a statement that no defense will be presented. Richey will be sentenced to time already served, Parsigian said.

As part of the deal, Richey agreed to plead no contest to the state's charge that he told the toddler's mother he would baby-sit the girl, but didn't and left her in harm's way, Parsigian said.

Richey has said he would never admit to starting the fire and rejected any plea offer that linked him to the fire, Parsigian said.

Richey's brother, Steve, who still lives in northwest Ohio, said Richey told him that he was tired of fighting and just wanted out.

"He's getting the chance to live the rest of his life," he said.

Conflicting stories
Richey has drawn support from members of the British Parliament and the late Pope John Paul II.

He was nearly out of appeals until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court ordered a new trial. The court said expert testimony could have contended that the fire wasn't intentionally set.

Richey, who came within an hour of being executed 13 years ago, has maintained his innocence from the beginning.

He came from Scotland to live with his American-born father in the early 1980s and became a British citizen while in prison.

Richey's attorneys contended that investigators mishandled evidence used to convict him and experts used nonscientific methods to determine that gas or turpentine started the fire.

Parsigian also said it was hard to believe that Richey, who was drunk and had his arm in a sling on the night of the fire, could have carried gas canisters and climbed onto a balcony, as prosecutors alleged at his 1987 trial.

Prosecutors said Richey set the blaze to get even with his former girlfriend, who lived in the same apartment building as the girl who died.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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