43 Years After He Was Jailed, Prosecutors Admit 'Error'

They say Kevin Strickland, who had an alibi, is innocent of 1978 murders
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2021 11:48 AM CDT
Updated May 15, 2021 10:25 AM CDT

Kevin Strickland has spent two-thirds of his life—43 years—behind bars for a triple murder. The problem is he wasn't even at the scene, according to prosecutors in Kansas City. "This is a profound error we must correct now," Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Monday, per the Kansas City Star. The county judge, Kansas City's mayor, and the very prosecutors who helped convict Strickland agree he should be exonerated. "If there has ever been a case befitting the phrase 'manifest injustice,' it is this case," Strickland's attorneys with the Midwest Innocence Project write in a petition asking the Missouri Supreme Court to release the 61-year-old. The sole survivor of the 1978 shooting at a home had identified 18-year-old Strickland as one of at least four gunman, despite getting only a fleeting glance, per KCTV. She later recanted, saying detectives had pressured her.

At trial, prosecutors claimed Strickland carried a shotgun that returned no usable fingerprints. His lawyers now say a fingerprint was found and it doesn't belong to Strickland. Two men who served 10 years in prison for the murders, and a third suspect, have long denied Strickland's involvement. The teen even had an alibi. His first trial in 1979 resulted in a hung jury, with the sole Black juror voting for acquittal, per the Star. Prosecutors then blocked four potential Black jurors from serving on what turned out to be an all-white jury, which convicted Strickland, a Black man, of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder, according to his lawyers. He received life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years. "Keeping him incarcerated now on a jury verdict, where the jury heard none of this convincing exculpatory evidence, serves no conceivably just purpose," prosecutors say. (This man spent 44 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit.)

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