After 43 years behind bars for a crime he said he did not commit, a Missouri man’s sentence has been set aside, according to a news release from County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker Jackson.
Senior Judge James Welsh filed his ruling Tuesday morning to drop conviction Kevin Strickland, 62, who served 43 years at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, after he was convicted of one count of murder and two counts of second-degree murder in a triple homicide. He received a 50-year life sentence without the possibility of parole for crimes he said he had nothing to do with.
Strickland, in a wheelchair, spoke shortly after being released from prison on Tuesday afternoon and said he thanked his lawyers and all those who have listened to him over the years as he maintained his maintain their purity.
All charges against Strickland were dismissed. According to The National Registry of Exonerations, his detention became the longest false imprisonment in Missouri history and one of the longest in the nation.
“Still in skepticism,” Strickland said. “I didn’t think this day would come.”
Strickland said he learned of his release through a breaking news broadcast that interrupted the soap opera he was watching.
“To say we are extremely pleased and grateful is an understatement,” said Peters Baker. “This brings justice – finally – to a man who has tragically suffered, so much as a result of this wrongful conviction.”
Strickland testified in a three-day evidence hearing earlier this month – in connection with witness testimony given under oath – Strickland’s legal team presented evidence and arguments to vindicate him.
Four people were shot in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 25, 1978, resulting in three deaths, according to CNN’s KSHB. The crime’s sole survivor, Cynthia Douglas, who died in 2015, testified in 1978 Strickland at the scene of the triple murder.
Douglas survived the shooting after sustaining a shotgun wound and told police officers Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins were two of the perpetrators. But she did not identify Strickland, whom she knows, at the scene until a day later, according to KSHB, after it was suggested that her Strickland’s hair matched Douglas’ description of the gunner. Douglas insists she initially failed to identify him as a result of cognac and marijuana use, according to KSHB.
But over the past 30 years, she says, she made mistakes and misidentified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas worked to liberate Strickland through the Midwest Innocence Project.
According to Strickland’s attorney, Robert Hoffman, the two Douglas attackers identified at the scene were both guilty of second-degree murder and each received about 10 years in prison for the crime.
“Most of us have heard the famous quote that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’,” Peters Baker said in an online statement posted in August. . “Kevin Strickland is our own example of what happens when a system set up to be fair goes horribly wrong.”
Strickland thanked the judge for reviewing all the “non-evidence” against him, and he appreciated the judge for taking his time to listen and understand what really happened in 1978.
Ultimately, Strickland said he wants to get involved in speaking out and possibly influencing legislation, adding that he has ideas on how to keep this from happening to others.
A GoFundMe account was set up by the Midwest Innocence Project to help him restart his life. They noted that the State of Missouri would not compensate him for his time in prison.
In 2020, the whole country has 129 posthumous orders. According to a report from the National Registry of Exonerations, defendants pardoned last year spent a total of 1,737 years behind bars, an average of 13.4 years per pardon. And 30% of false convictions in the registry’s database can be traced back to mistaken witness identification.