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United States: Man Exonerated After 42 Years In Prison

United States: Man Exonerated After 42 Years In Prison

An American man who was wrongfully convicted of a triple murder in 1978 and sent to prison has been exonerated and released 42 years later.

Kevin Strickland (62) from the State of Missouri has maintained his innocence since his arrest at age 18. He was sentenced in June 1979.

Judge James Welsh on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of Strickland from state custody, after 15 487 days behind bars.

Strickland’s detention was the longest wrongful incarceration in state history, but it is thought that under Missouri law he is unlikely to receive any financial compensation.

According to the Midwest Innocence Project, the state of Missouri only compensates prisoners exonerated through DNA evidence, not because of eyewitness testimony.

Strickland was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years after he was linked to the fatal shooting of three people during a burglary in a home in Kansas City on 25 April 1978.

On that night, four assailants shot dead three people inside the home: Sherrie Black, 22, Larry Ingram, 22, and John Walker, 20, while a fourth victim – Cynthia Douglas, 20, escaped after feigning death.

Police reportedly pressured Douglas to pick Strickland even though no physical evidence ever linked him to the crimes.

At the end of his first trial in 1979, one black juror on a 12-member panel held out for his acquittal resulting in a hung juror.

However, at Strickland’s second trial, an all-white jury found him guilty of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

Years later, Douglas wrote to the Midwest Innocence Project, renouncing her lone eyewitness testimony, saying “things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can”.

Douglas died before she could formally recant her testimony against Strickland, but her mother, sister and daughter have all testified in court that she picked “the wrong guy”.

Prosecutors in Jackson County filed a motion calling for his immediate exoneration and release. Judge Welsh wrote in Tuesday’s ruling:

Under these unique circumstances, the Court’s confidence in Strickland’s conviction is so undermined that it cannot stand, and the judgment of conviction must be set aside.

More: BBC News

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