KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On November 23, Kansas City man Kevin Strickland was finally freed after spending 43 years in the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, MO, for a crime he did not commit. This is one of the longest wrongful convictions in U.S. history, according to The National Registry of Exonerations.
Under Missouri law, 62-year-old Strickland is ineligible for compensation because the state only allows wrongful imprisonment payments to individuals exonerated through DNA evidence.
Because of this, the Midwest Innocence Project set up a GoFundMe fundraiser and many citizens felt compelled to donate. The online fundraiser has now raised over $1,600,000 for Strickland, donated from over 28 thousand individuals.
Arrested when he was 18-years-old, Strickland was convicted for an April 25, 1978 triple homicide. On the night of the crime, four victims were tied up by four suspects. Three of the victims were killed and the fourth, Cynthia Douglas, lived to identify two of the four suspects — neither of them being Strickland. She could not identify the other two perpetrators.
But the following day, it was suggested to Douglas that one of the killers might be Strickland. Douglas then identified Strickland in a lineup.
Decades later, in September 2020, The Kansas City Star began investigating Strickland’s case.
“Prosecutors intentionally excluded Black people from serving at Strickland’s second trial, his lawyers said. He was then convicted by an all-white jury of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder,” stated The Star.
The Star “interviewed more than two dozen people, including two men who admitted guilt and swore Strickland was not with them and two other accomplices during the killings. The Star also reported that the lone eyewitness to the murders, whose testimony was paramount in the case against Strickland, told relatives she wanted to recant her identification of him and believed she helped send the wrong teenager to prison.”
The Star states that Jackson County prosecutors then reviewed the case for months and in May of this year, it was found that Strickland is “factually innocent.” It has been decided that Strickland was not present at the time of the triple homicide.
Despite the investigation, Missouri Governor Mike Parson and the state Attorneys General’s Office contended that Strickland received a fair trial and should not be freed.