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Wrongfully Jailed at 18, He's Now a Millionaire

Kevin Strickland has always maintained his innocence in 1978 murders
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2021 12:39 AM CST
Updated Nov 26, 2021 6:04 AM CST
After 43 Years Behind Bars, Wrongfully Convicted Man Freed
Kevin Strickland answers questions during an evidentiary hearing regarding his innocence on, Nov. 8, 2021 in Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City, Mo.   (Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star via AP, File)

(Newser) Update: Missouri man Kevin Strickland may finally have his freedom after being wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years, but what he didn't have, at least initially, was money. CNN explains that under state law, only those who were exonerated due to DNA testing are eligible to receive imprisonment payments. DNA was not involved in Strickland's case. The Midwest Innocence Project in June created a GoFundMe campaign with the initial goal of raising $7,500—$175 for every year he was wrongfully imprisoned. As of this writing it has managed to hit many, many times that amount: roughly $1.05 million. Our original story from Tuesday follows:

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A Kansas City man who was jailed for more than 40 years for three murders was released from prison Tuesday after a judge ruled that he was wrongfully convicted in 1979, the AP reports. Kevin Strickland, 62, has always maintained that he was home watching television and had nothing to do with the killings, which happened when he was 18 years old. He learned of the decision when the news scrolled across the television screen as he was watching a soap opera. He said inmates began screaming. “I'm not necessarily angry. It's a lot. I think I've created emotions that you all don't know about just yet," he told reporters as he left the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron. “Joy, sorrow, fear. I am trying to figure out how to put them together."

He said he would like to get involved in efforts to “keep this from happening to someone else,” saying the criminal justice system “needs to be torn down and redone.” Judge James Welsh, a retired Missouri Court of Appeals judge, ruled after a three-day evidentiary hearing requested by a Jackson County prosecutor who said evidence used to convict Strickland had since been recanted or disproven. Welsh wrote in his judgement that no physical evidence linked Strickland to the crime scene, that a key witness recanted before her death in 2015, and that two other men convicted in the killings later insisted Strickland wasn’t involved. They named two other suspects who were never charged.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who pushed for his freedom, moved quickly to dismiss the criminal charges against him so he could be released. Gov. Mike Parson, who declined Strickland’s clemency requests, tweeted simply that: “The Court has made its decision, we respect the decision, and the Department of Corrections will proceed with Mr. Strickland’s release immediately.” Strickland was convicted in the deaths of Larry Ingram, 21; John Walker, 20; and Sherrie Black, 22, at a home in Kansas City. The evidentiary hearing focused largely on testimony from Cynthia Douglas, the only person to survive the April 25, 1978, shootings. She initially identified Strickland as one of four men who shot the victims and testified to that during his two trials. She later said she was pressured by police to choose Strickland and tried for years to alert political and legal experts to help her prove she had identified the wrong man, according to testimony during the hearing from her family, friends, and a co-worker. (Read more Missouri stories.)

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