Kevin Strickland: After spending 43 years in prison for triple murder he says he didn’t commit, Missouri man is finally free

Senior Judge James Welsh released his ruling Tuesday morning to overturn the conviction of Kevin Strickland, 62, who served 43 years at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, after being convicted of one count of capital murder and two counts. of second degree murder in a triple homicide. He was sentenced to 50 years of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a crime in which he claimed not to be involved.

Strickland, in a wheelchair, spoke shortly after being released from prison on Tuesday afternoon and said he was grateful to his lawyers and everyone who had listened to him over the years as he maintained his innocence .

All charges against Strickland were dismissed. His release makes his jail the longest wrongful jail in Missouri history and one of the longest in the country, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

“Still in disbelief,” Strickland said. “I didn’t think that day would come.”

Strickland said he found out the news of his release through a breaking news report that interrupted the soap opera he was watching.

“To say we are extremely happy and grateful is an understatement,” said Peters Baker. “It does justice – finally – to a man who has tragically suffered so much, so much because of this wrongful conviction.”

Strickland testified in a three-day hearing earlier this month – which involved eyewitness testimony given under oath – Strickland’s legal team presented evidence and arguments to exonerate him.

Four people were shot dead in Kansas City, Missouri on April 25, 1978, killing three, according to CNN affiliate KSHB. The sole survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas, who died in 2015, testified in 1978 that Strickland was at the scene of the triple murder.

Douglas survived the shooting after sustaining a gunshot wound and told police Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins were two of the perpetrators. But she did not identify Strickland, whom she knew, at the scene until a day later, according to KSHB, after it was suggested to her that Strickland’s hair matched Douglas’ description of the gunman. Douglas claimed his initial failure to identify him was due to the use of brandy and marijuana, according to KSHB.

He was wrongly convicted of murder as a teenager.  After fighting for 26 years, his name has finally been cleared

But over the past 30 years, she has said she made a mistake and falsely identified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas made efforts to free Strickland through the Midwest Innocence Project.

The two assailants identified by Douglas at the scene both pleaded guilty to second degree murder and each ended up serving around 10 years in prison for the crimes, according to Strickland attorney Robert Hoffman.

“Most of us have heard the famous quote that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’,” said Peters Baker in an online statement released in August. “Kevin Strickland is our own example of what happens when a system defined to be fair goes horribly wrong.”

Strickland thanked the judge for reviewing all of the “non-evidence” against him and appreciated that the judge took the time to listen and understand what really happened in 1978.

Eventually, Strickland said he wanted to get involved in speaking out and possibly influencing legislation, and added that he had ideas on how to prevent this from happening to someone else. .

A GoFundMe account was created by the Midwest Innocence Project to help them start their life over. They note that the state of Missouri will not provide any compensation for his time in prison.

In 2020, there were 129 exonerations across the country. Defendants exonerated last year lost a total of 1,737 years behind bars, an average of 13.4 years per exoneration, according to a report from the National Exoneration Registry. And 30% of wrongful convictions in the registry database can be traced to mistaken eyewitness identifications.

CNN’s Kay Jones contributed to this report.

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