After 43 years in prison, a man wrongfully convicted of killing three people in Kansas City, Missouri is a free man. A judge ordered today to have Kevin Strickland immediately released. As Strickland left prison, he told reporters he learned of the news when a news break interrupted the soap opera he was watching.
“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 be awarded any money from Missouri for his wrongful conviction, but a private GoFundMe page has raised $111,000 at the time of this posting.
Strickland’s case was renewed when the Kansas City Star’s investigative journalism got the attention of Jackson County prosecutors. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker argued that Strickland should be released. 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.”
As Strickland left prison, he shared his opinion of the justice system in Missouri:
“It needs to be torn down and redone, from the arresting officer to the presiding judge. I mean, it don’t work. I mean, it worked here in the long run, but it took 43 years to get here. 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.”
Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas tweeted:
Kevin Strickland will be freed. Praise the Lord! My heart breaks that his mother never got the chance to see him free, but I am heartened that we have justice. My thanks to the Midwest Innocence Project, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker, and all who fought for Kevin.
— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) November 23, 2021
Strickland said he was thankful for many things, especially his lawyers, and held no anger toward the woman who initially said she witnessed the crime and later recanted.
“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 to describe how he was feeling when he left the prison in Cameron.
“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.”