After being imprisoned for 43 years for a crime he didn’t commit, Kevin Strickland, 62, is now free.
In 1978, Strickland was 18 years old and convicted by an all-White jury for a Kansas City triple murder. He maintained his innocence the whole time, telling authorities he was at home watching television.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with these murders,” he said. “By no means was I anywhere close to the crime scene.”
Judge James Welsh announced that prosecutors met the burden of providing convincing evidence that undermines Strickland’s conviction. Welsh also said there was no physical evidence that connected Strickland to the murders and that he was convinced solely on eyewitness testimony.
Cynthia Douglas, a survivor of the shooting, recanted her identification of Strickland at the scene of the crime, but she passed in 2015. Her family testified at Strickland’s evidentiary hearing, which began on Nov. 8. They testified that police pressured Douglas to identify Strickland and that her identification of Strickland burdened her up until her death.
Two other men sent to prison for the murders also testified that Strickland was not part of the crime.
In August, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced that she was taking legal action to free Strickland.
“Most of us have heard the famous quotation that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. “Kevin Strickland stands as our own example of what happens when a system set to be just, just gets it terribly wrong.”
Gov. Mike Parson refused to issue a pardon for Strickland, saying he wasn’t convinced Strickland was innocent. Parson then pardoned Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis pair who brandished guns at a Black Lives Matter protest last year.
Strickland will not be compensated by the state for his wrongful conviction. The state’s compensation law only allows payment to those exonerated through a DNA testing statute, which was not the case for Strickland.
Strickland’s attorneys set up an online fundraiser, which has raised about $40,000, to help him get on his feet: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-kevin-strickland-after-wrongful-conviction?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1.
“We welcome Kevin Strickland back to Kansas City. Our community owes him more than we can imagine and we commit to doing all we can to support him,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas.