Kansas City man to be freed after 43-year exoneration for triple murder

A Kansas City man will be released from jail after a judge ruled Tuesday that he was wrongfully convicted of three murders in 1979, which put him behind bars for more than four decades.

Kevin Strickland, 62, was convicted of killing Larry Ingram, 21; John Walker, 20; and Sherrie Black, 22, in Kansas City on April 25, 1978, despite constantly claiming she was watching television at her home at the time of the murder, according to The Associated Press. He was 18 years old when the murders occurred.

His first trial ended with a jury hanging after the panel’s only black jury held that Stickland, a black man, should be acquitted, the AP reported. However, during his second trial in 1979, an all-white jury found him guilty of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

Retired Missouri Court of Appeals Judge James Welsh finally exonerated Strickland of his crimes Tuesday after presiding over a three-day evidentiary hearing, AP reported. A Jackson County prosecutor requested the hearing after arguing that the evidence used for Strickland’s conviction had been withdrawn or proven false since his conviction.

“In these unique circumstances, the Court’s confidence in Strickland’s conviction is so undermined that it cannot be upheld, and the conviction sentence must be set aside,” Welsh wrote Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

“The state of Missouri will immediately release Kevin Bernard Strickland from custody,” he added.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (right) opposed actions spearheaded by Jackson County Attorney Jean Peters Baker and others in the legal and political industries to help free Strickland from incarceration, according to the AP. Schmitt is currently running for the United States Senate and has been linked to former President TrumpDonald Trump Rittenhouse Says Biden Slandered His Character By Linking Him To White Supremacists Night Health Care: White House Touts Vaccination Rate For Feds Trump Backs Hogan Challenger In Maryland Governor Race MORE.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (right) also rejected Strickland’s clemency requests, the AP reported.

A significant portion of the evidentiary hearing focused on the earlier testimony of Cynthia Douglas, the only person to survive the 1978 shooting, according to the AP. Douglas, who died in 2015, initially said that Strickland was one of four men responsible for the fatal shootings, but later revealed that she was pressured by police to blame him for the killings.

His family, friends and a co-worker testified at the evidentiary hearing that Douglas had made several attempts over the years to tell political and legal experts that he had falsely attributed the murders to Strickland, seeking their help in proving his new position.

Attorneys representing the Missouri Attorney General’s office maintained that Strickland’s backers had not produced a document supporting the notion that Douglas made efforts to withdraw his testimony that placed responsibility on Strickland, according to the AP. The lawyer said the idea was based on “rumors, rumors, rumors.”

Two other men who were convicted in connection with the triple murder also revealed that Strickland was not present at the crime scene, the AP reported, citing the Kansas City Star. They identified two other suspects but were never charged in the case.

Strickland also testified at the hearing, arguing that he never told Douglas that he would give him $ 300 to “keep his mouth shut,” the AP reported. He also claimed that he had never spent time in the house where the murders occurred before they occurred.

The process to hold an evidentiary hearing for Strickland culminated with Peters Baker pointing to a new state law as the reason his request for a hearing was justified. The law gives local prosecutors the ability to challenge convictions if they are under the impression that the defendant is not guilty of the crime, according to AP.

The Stickland case was reportedly the first time a prosecutor used the law to challenge a past conviction. Peters Baker had initially revealed in May that he thought Strickland was innocent after reviewing the case.

Schmitt’s office filed a series of motions in an attempt to delay the hearing, according to the AP. One of the motions was granted, calling for all 16th Circuit judges to be rescued from the hearings.

Schmitt’s office pointed to a letter that included comments from the presiding judge of the circuit saying he believed Strickland should be exonerated of the charges against him, the AP reported.


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