Posted by Alisha Ebrahimji | CNN
The first thing Kevin Strickland did after rehab for the triple murder, which he did not commit, was to visit his mother’s grave.
“Knowing that my mother was under this mud, and I had no opportunity to visit her in recent years … I remembered again the tears I made when they told me that I was guilty of a crime I did not commit “Strickland told Brianna Keilar on CNN Wednesday.
At the age of 19, Strickland, now 62, was convicted in 1979 on one count of murder and two counts of second-degree murder in triple murder in Kansas City, Missouri. He was sentenced to 50 years of life without parole and served 43 years of that term behind bars at the West Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri – until this Tuesday, when Chief Justice James Welch ruled to overturn sentence to Strickland. …
Strickland said he learned of his release from a breaking news report that interrupted a soap opera he was watching on Tuesday.
All criminal cases against Strickland were dropped. His release makes him the longest illegal jail sentence in Missouri history and one of the longest in the country, according to the National Rehabilitation Registry.
Faced with a world he knows little about
Strickland’s first night after leaving jail was hectic, and the thought of going back to jail kept him awake, he said Wednesday.
“I’m used to living in a closed cell where I know exactly what is happening to me,” he said. “And being at home, you hear the creaks of home furnishings, electrical wiring and everything else … I was kind of afraid. I thought someone was coming for me. “
Now that Strickland has become a free man who is adjusting to a new world without being confined in a cell and subjected to established prison rules, he is working to build a home and life for himself without any financial help from Missouri.
According to the Innocence Project, in Missouri, only those rehabilitated through DNA testing are eligible for $ 50 per day of imprisonment after sentencing. This was not the case for Strickland.
According to Project Innocence, 36 states and Washington DC have laws providing compensation for those released. The federal standard for compensation for wrongfully convicted offenders is a minimum of $ 50,000 per year in prison, plus an additional amount for each year spent on death row.
The GoFundMe account was created by the Midwest Innocence Project to help him start his life over.
Convicted as a teenager, acquitted as an adult
Four people were shot dead in Kansas City, Missouri on April 25, 1978, resulting in three deaths, according to KSHB, an affiliate of CNN. The only survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas, who died in 2015, revealed in 1978 that Strickland was at the scene of a triple murder.
Douglas was shot with a shotgun and then told police that Vincent Bell and Kylne Adkins were two of the criminals. But she did not identify Strickland, who she knew was present at the scene, until a day later, according to KSHB, after it was suggested that her Strickland hair match Douglas’s description of the shooter. Douglas argued that her initial failure to identify him was related to cognac and marijuana use, according to the KSHB.
But for the past 30 years, she has said she made a mistake and misidentified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas made efforts to free Strickland through the Midwest Innocence project.
Strickland’s lawyer Robert Hoffman said the two attackers she identified at the scene had pled guilty to second-degree murder, and each served nearly 10 years in prison for the crimes.
Over the past year, there have been several attempts to free Strickland.
In May, a motion was filed for his release with the Missouri Supreme Court, with a cover letter detailing the results of an investigation by the county attorney’s integrity department. The Panel reviews claims of innocence after sentencing when new and credible evidence of innocence exists.
According to court documents, Strickland’s attorney and representatives from the Midwest Innocence Project joined Jackson County Attorney Jean Peters Baker in May to present evidence emerging from his conviction. But in June, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to consider Strickland’s motion.
Later that month, Missouri Governor Mike Parson released a list of 36 people he had pardoned, but Strickland was not one of them.
Earlier this month, Strickland testified during a three-day evidentiary hearing, which included sworn testimony and the evidence presented was sufficient to justify him.
In 2020, 129 cases of rehabilitation were justified nationwide. Defendants acquitted last year lost a total of 1,737 years behind bars, an average of 13.4 years in rehabilitation, according to a report from the National Rehabilitation Register. And 30% of wrongful verdicts in the registry database can be traced back to mistaken eyewitness identifications.