Man serving life sentence for killing his half-sister and his lawyer is running for the US Senate, and it's TOTALLY LEGAL!

According to Minnesota law, inmates are not allowed to run for state-level offices but they are legally allowed to run for federal office

                            Man serving life sentence for killing his half-sister and his lawyer is running for the US Senate, and it's TOTALLY LEGAL!
(Source:Getty Images)

An inmate who is serving life in prison for two murders is currently running for a US Senate seat in Minnesota. The best part about this is that it is completely legal to do so. According to Minnesota law, inmates are not allowed to run for state-level offices but they are legally allowed to run for federal office. The inmate in question, Leonard Richards, is very aware of this loophole and has tried many times before for federal office in spite of him serving out his prison sentence with no parole. The 75-year-old was convicted of killing May Wilson, his half-sister, in 1982. He was also convicted of shooting dead his lawyer, Robert Stratton, in 1987. Stratton's sister has come forward and said that the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office told her that they could not do anything about keeping the convict out of the ballot if he applies.

The Daily Mail had reported that Richards killed Wilson in the basement of a store that he had rented out previously. He was only tried for her murder a few years later. The law finally had enough when he killed his own attorney. Stratton had been working with the convict on the investigation the IRS had launched on him. The lawyer had met up with his client for lunch and Richards proceeded to kill Stratton in his girlfriend's basement merely a few days before the lawyer was set to meet the investigators from the IRS. Linda Winbrush, Richards' girlfriend at the time, was the one who ultimately put an end to his murderous tendencies when she turned him into the police. She had seen that his jeans had blood stains and she even found other items in her home covered with blood.

A legal adviser for the office, Bert Black, said that even though the convicts had committed "unspeakable acts", the courts have all ruled that the agency cannot stop a felon or even a prisoner from filing an affidavit of candidacy. He said: "The only valid requirements are that you be of a certain age and that you live in the state on Election Day, essentially."

Stratton's distraught sister has come out and said that she wants everyone, especially voters, to know Richards' murky history. She said that he will definitely not win an election race against US Senator Amy Klobuchar but has also said that "even one vote for this murderer is too many". She plans to ask lawmakers to change the requirements for who can run for office. 

Richards had run in the Democratic party in 1992 for a congressional seat and had managed to get more than 14,500 votes in his favor. He ran for the second time in 1994 but got only 4,000 votes. In 2015, he tried running for the congressional seat again but was not able to get his notice of candidacy notarized in time. He told the St. Cloud Times in an interview before the 2015 election: "This [running in federal elections] is not something new, now that I'm a prisoner."

Even if he is elected, there is no chance Richards will be able to serve in the office because he is in jail without parole. Richards is currently being held at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater.

Coming to the most important question, is it even possible for a convicted felon to serve in elected office? According to the Constitution, members of the House and the Senate are required to fulfill three requirements: 1. all members of the House must be at least 25 years old, and members of the Senate must be at least 30 years old, 2. members of the House must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and members of the Senate must have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years, 3. they have to be an "inhabitant" of the state "when elected".

Due to this, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has said that committing a crime cannot constitutionally disqualify a person from serving or running for Congress. The state will also not have a say in whether or not a person is qualified to serve in the House or the Senate. The CRS has stated: "[S]ince a State does not have the authority to add qualifications for federal offices, the fact of conviction, even for a felony offense, could not be used to keep a candidate off of the ballot under State law either as a direct disqualification of convicted felons from holding or being a candidate for office, or as a disqualification of one who is no longer a "qualified elector" in the State. Once a person meets the three constitutional qualifications of age, citizenship, and inhabitancy in the State when elected, that person, if duly elected, is constitutionally "qualified" to serve in Congress, even if a convicted felon."

If a convict is in prison anywhere across the country, that will not be a problem if they are trying to run for federal office. Rep. Matthew Lyon ran for Congress in 1798 from prison and won the election that year. He finished serving out his four-month prison term for "libeling" President John Adams and then took his seat in Congress. Other people in the Congress tried and failed to get Lyon expelled. 

At the end of the day, it is up to a House or Senate chamber to figure out whether an elected official is either qualified or not with regards to serving if a challenge has been raised by another member.

When it comes to state-level office, the qualifications are determined by the state's law. For example, in Texas aside a pardon or any other formal "judicial release" from felon status, an individual who has been convicted of a felony cannot run for public office, even though the person may be able to vote. According to staff attorney Ted Bromley, who is with the state's secretary of state office, in Connecticut, a former felon can have the right to vote, run for office and serve in elected office restored, if they have paid all their dues, served out their sentences fully and are not technically on parole. 

All the states have their own technicalities into whether a felon can run for office or not and this all depends on various factors that each state has put out for the different offices.