Locked away at the age of 18, Kevin Strickland will finally be free. Joining the ranks of exonerated people, Strickland had spent his entire adult life locked away for a crime he didn’t commit.
His release comes over 42 years after he was convicted of a triple homicide. It is the longest wrongful conviction in Missouri History and one of the longest in the country.
The charges stemmed from a 1978 shooting that took the lives of three people and injured a fourth. According to CNN, Cynthia Douglas was the only survivor. She was able to identify two of the shooters immediately but reportedly identified Strickland only after officers planted the suggestion that he looked like one of the suspects.
Despite being the main witness against Strickland, Douglas doubted his guilt and later reached out to help free him, citing a mistake.
Strickland spent more time in prison than those who committed the crime. Some of those involved have insisted Strickland maintained he had nothing to do with the shooting.
The Midwest Innocence Project is encouraging people to donate to a GoFundMe to support Strickland. Missouri’s compensation law for wrongful convictions is very narrowly tailored, barring Strickland from recovery.
Compounding the injustice, the Kansas City Star reported Strickland would not benefit from the support of a parole officer or any other services from the state.
“In Missouri, the wrongly convicted are almost always spit out of the system with nothing from the government that imprisoned them,” the Kansas City Star reported. “Instead, they rely on nonprofits and other exonerees to get back on their feet, post-conviction lawyers say.”
As of Tuesday evening, the GoFundMe surpassed $150,000.
In a written statement about Strickland’s case in August, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker quoted the famous phrase “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Baker continued on to say that the case was a stark example of the system getting a case “terribly wrong.”
Strickland was tried twice, with his first trial ending in a hung jury. The second trial in which he was found guilty had an all-white jury.
Despite the state attorney general’s opposition, Judge James Welsh ruled in favor of exoneration finding “clear and convincing” evidence to support overturning the conviction.
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