An Innocent Man Spent 43 Years In Prison. The Government Will NOT Give Him Compensation!
In recent days, news has spread across the world’s media that has moved and shocked people around the globe. Stories like this should simply never happen! A man was serving a life sentence for murders in Kansas City, Missouri, that he did not commit. He spent as long as 43 years in prison! After such a long time, he was acquitted and went free. The wrongful conviction took away all the years of his youth, and he also lost his health. How was it possible to convict an innocent man who was not even at the scene of the crime? How is it possible that after more than four decades of imprisonment he is not entitled to compensation? Read on to learn about the fate of Kevin Strickland.
Kevin Strickland, who has been mentioned by media around the world for the past few days, was born on June 7, 1959. He was still a teenager when the crime for which he was blamed and convicted occurred. The life he had was drastically changed by the events of April 25, 1978. This was when a triple homicide occurred in Kansas City, Missouri, with which he was later linked shortly thereafter. A group of assailants ransacked a house that was a popular meeting place. Several people were hanging out at the location. The attackers tied them up and shot them. The victims were 22-year-old Sherrie Black, 21-year-old Larry Ingram, and 20-year-old John Walker.
The surviving victim...
Another person, a young woman at the time, Cynthia Douglas, who was the girlfriend of one of the murdered, was shot, but she managed to get away with her life and probably dodged another bullet because she pretended to be dead until the assailants left. She later crawled out of the house. She was the only survivor of the massacre that occurred. And it was she who initially identified Kevin Strickland as one of the attackers and it was only on the basis of her testimony that the man was convicted…
Strickland, who was 18 at the time, said he was watching TV and talking on the phone at the time of the crime, and police began charging him with the murders the next morning. Two other suspects; Kilm Adkins and Vincent Bell, were arrested, pleaded guilty, and convicted. Strickland's connection to them was that Vincent Bell was his childhood friend and they lived close to each other. Police found a fingerprint belonging to Strickland on Bell's car; however, Strickland claimed that this was because he had actually driven the car before, but the last time he saw Adkins and Bell on the night of the murders was at 5 or 6 p.m. In contrast, the fingerprint from the shotgun used in the crime did not match Strickland's, it belonged to someone else and that person has not been identified to this day. Strickland, 18, had an alibi; the two men who pleaded guilty to the murders also said he was not involved in the case and was not at the scene.
Testimony incriminating Kevin Strickland
The assurances of the real perpetrators, saying that Kevin Strickland did not participate in the crime, and the fact that no physical evidence linked the man to the crime scene did not save him from a cruel sentence. The conviction of an innocent man was made possible by the testimony of Cynthia Douglas, a survivor of the massacre and a single eyewitness. During questioning, the then-young woman agreed with police that Strickland may have been one of the men responsible for the murders, picking him out of a lineup at a police station. Douglas later admitted that detectives in the case pressured her to name Strickland as one of the perpetrators. She regretted it all her life later and tried to recant her testimony…
Sentenced to life in prison
A year after his arrest, a sentence was handed down. In 1979, Kevin Strickland was found guilty of killing three people. He received a life sentence with no possibility of parole for the next 50 years. About 20 years old at the time, Kevin was pinned as a murderer. He lost his entire youth and the best years of his adult life behind bars. He also lost his health. It was only recently in the latter part of 2021, after 43 years of his time served, that the world heard about an innocently convicted man and how the case sought to blame him for the crime despite the lack of evidence. Many irregularities and injustices came to light in this case. Strickland's first trial ended in a hung jury, as the only black member of the jury refused to find him guilty. According to Strickland, after the trial, the prosecutor turned to his lawyer and said: "I'll make sure that doesn't happen next time." The man's current lawyer, Tricia Rojo Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project, said the prosecutor used his powers and then exercised what is known as a peremptory challenge, which is the right of final appeal in jury selection and to reject a number of potential jurors without cause. By doing so, he was able to eliminate dark-skinned people from the jury pool, and in the next trial, the jury consisted of only white people. At that time, Kevin, being an African-American, was found guilty.
Strickland's appeal was rejected and guilty verdicts
Although Strickland, shortly after his conviction and life sentence, in 1980 to be exact, tried to appeal, it was rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court. What seems even more frightening about this story from our current perspective is that, according to the information we were able to find, the actual perpetrators responsible for the killings - Adkins and Bell later reached a plea deal, pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to 20 years, but each served less than 10 years. There were other suspects in the case as well, but no one else was charged. Kevin Strickland himself had to wait over 40 years for someone to seriously revisit his case…
The only witness for years wanted to retract their testimony
For many years, no one wanted to listen to the victim who survived the events of April 25, 1978, namely Cynthia Douglas. Although she regretted her incriminating testimony against the convicted man and stressed that detectives pressured her to name Strickland as the murderer, for a long time no one considered it. It is known that in 2009 she sent an email to the Midwest Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to innocent people in prison. In the message, Douglas wrote: "I am seeking information on how to help someone who has been wrongfully accused. I was the only eyewitness and things were not clear at the time, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can." The woman confessed that years ago she was told by police: "just pick Strickland out of the lineup and it will be over, it will all go away, you can move on and you don't have to worry about these guys anymore." Cynthia Douglas tried to recant her testimony until the very end. She died in 2015.
43 years behind bars for innocence
Strickland’s case was not revisited until recently, after the story was investigated by The Kansas City Star editorial board in September 2020. That prompted prosecutors to revisit the case. Prosecutors reviewing Strickland's conviction were unable to interview the only witness, Cynthia Douglas, who died several years ago. But in addition to the e-mail she sent, both her mother, her ex-husband, and a close family friend signed statements saying they wanted nothing more than to see Strickland free because they believe Douglas made a mistake in identifying him. The road to the man's freedom was far from easy, though a whole host of high-profile individuals petitioned for his acquittal. In May 2021, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker released a letter stating that she believed the inmate was innocent and should be released from prison. Former prosecutors in the Strickland case also agreed, as did federal prosecutors from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and more than a dozen state legislators, including Andrew McDaniel, the Republican chairman of the Missouri House of Representatives committee overseeing prisons, sought his release. But in June 2021, the Missouri Supreme Court denied Strickland's petition for release from custody. And in August 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson refused to pardon him, saying Strickland's case was "not a priority" and that he was unsure of his innocence. But in the end, after a time of wrangling by, among others, state prosecutors who argued that the man's innocence was "clear and convincing" and requested that Strickland's conviction be overturned, Judge James Welsh agreed and ruled that he should not spend "one more day" in prison.
He has regained his freedom. He is not due compensation.
Kevin Strickland was just 19 years old when he was charged with a triple crime. He has one child, however, he has never been able to participate in his daughter's life. Currently, he has major health problems and is in a wheelchair. As he explained, he has experienced several heart attacks, has high blood pressure and his ability to stand is limited. In mid-November 2021, at age 62, he finally regained his freedom. "I still can't believe it. I never thought this day would come," - he said after being released from prison in Cameron, Missouri. When it came to his release, the two things he desperately wanted to do first were to see two places: his late mother's grave and the beaches and ocean, because he had never had the opportunity to do that. Surprisingly, although the wrongfully convicted man who spent as much as 43 years of his life behind bars as an innocent man served the longest prison term in Missouri history and one of the longest in the nation's history, he will not receive any compensation from the state. He is ineligible for compensation from the state because state law allows it only if the convicted man proves his innocence through DNA testing and is exonerated based on that very evidence. Strickland's lawyers have launched an online fundraiser for him and at the time of writing have managed to raise over $300,000 for the man. However, if Kevin Strickland's case was eligible for compensation from the state, the amount would be much higher. In other states, in similar cases, compensation of over 20 million dollars was paid to victims.
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