A man wrongfully convicted for killing three people in Kansas City is now free after spending 43 years in jail. Today’s judge ordered Kevin Strickland be immediately released. Strickland, who was in prison, told reporters that he heard the news from a news reporter while watching a soap opera.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he said, “I didn’t think this day was going to come, not before I got this legal team I didn’t.
According to data from the National Registry of Exonerations, Strickland’s incarceration is the longest wrongful imprisonment in Missouri and among the longest in the nation. Strickland will not receive any money from Missouri for the wrongful conviction. However, a GoFundMe private page has raised $111,000 as of this posting.
Strickland’s case was renewed when the Kansas City Star’s investigative journalismJackson County prosecutors were alerted. Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Prosecutor, argued that Strickland should not be held. Missouri Appeals Court Judge James Welsh said in his decision that Peters had “met her burden of providing clear and convincing evidence that undermines the Court’s confidence in the judgment of conviction.”
Strickland, upon his release from prison, expressed his opinion about Missouri’s justice system:
“It needs to be torn down and redone, from the arresting officer to the presiding judge. I mean, it don’t work. It worked in the end, but it took 43 decades to get there. And when they knew from day one, that I wasn’t the person that committed the crime. They knew. So it needs to be revamped as much as corrections.”
He added that he would like to get involved in legislation or efforts to “keep this from happening to someone else.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose office fought to keep Strickland in prison, issued a statement saying “the court has spoken and no further action from his office will be taken in this case.”
Quentin Lucas, Kansas City Mayor, tweeted:
Kevin Strickland will be released. Praise the Lord! My heart is broken that his mother did not get the chance to see him, but I am glad that there is justice. My sincere thanks to the Midwest Innocence Project and Jean Peters-Baker, Jackson County Prosecutor, and all those who fought for Kevin.
— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) November 23, 2021
Strickland stated he was thankful for many, including his lawyers. He also expressed no anger toward the woman who initially claimed that she witnessed the crime, but later changed his mind.
“She was the victim, the police put her up to what she did…I’d just like to tell her ‘thank you,’” he said.
Reporters asked Strickland how he felt when he left Cameron Prison.
“I’m not necessarily angry, uh, it’s a lot, ” he answered,”I thnk I’ve created some emotions that you all don’t know about just yet. I’m gonna have to put a name on them.”