After being exonerated, Kevin Strickland walked out of prison after 43 years in prison for a 1978 triple murder he swore he did not commit. Two days later donations for the GoFundMe campaign set up in his name reached $1,001,570 giving him a Thanksgiving to remember.
He was released from the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron on Tuesday after a judge granted Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Prosecutor a motion to free him.
Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, set up the GoFundMe page in June to help pay for Strickland’s necessities and housing after he was freed. All funds will go to 62-year-old Strickland. The fundraising’s goal was to gather $7,500, about $175 for every year he spent in prison for wrongful conviction.
Individuals who gave to his GoFundMe campaign noted their contributions were to apologize for the Missouri state officials who robbed him of his freedom despite overwhelming evidence of innocence.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declined Strickland’s clemency request even after Jackson County prosecutors declared that Strickland was innocent and should be freed after 42 years of imprisonment. Moreover, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt stood in his way, even though he maintained Strickland was guilty and made sure he stayed behind bars.
Even though Strickland was exonerated of the triple slaying, under Missouri law, he is not eligible to receive compensation for his wrongful conviction. He has spent most of his life behind bars and he has no work history and will not be able to get Social Security benefits.
Only a few hours after Strickland’s release last Tuesday, more than $200,000 had been raised, more than the original goal. But the donations continued, especially after his appearance on CNN on Wednesday.
Strickland’s case was highlighted in Luke Nozicka’s September 2020 investigation, published in The Kansas City Star. He reported that two men admitted guilt on April 25, 1978, Kansas City triple murder and attested that Strickland was not with them during the killing. The lone eyewitness, Cynthia Douglas, told her relatives she wanted to recant her testimony before she died in 2015.
Jackson County prosecutors reviewed the conviction in November 2020 and surmised that Strickland was innocent beyond a reasonable doubt and should be released immediately.
In May, prosecutors said that Strickland was acquitted during his first trial in 1979. Nevertheless, he was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and capital murder. He should have been freed because he was not with the two men who pleaded guilty in April 1978 slayings.
With over 43 years in prison, Strickland was one of the longest-serving former inmates in the nation.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Donations to exonerated former Missouri inmate top $1 million on Thanksgiving; by Roland Klose
New York Post: Missouri man exonerated in 1978 triple murder case gets over $1 million in donations; by Joshua Rhett Miller
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Thank You (21 Millions+) view’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Martin Cathrae’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License