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Jackson County Prosecutor files motion to free Kevin Strickland

Kevin Strickland
Posted at 8:59 AM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 19:41:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney has filed a motion to free Kevin Strickland.

Jean Peters Baker filed the motion on Monday.

Strickland was convicted of triple murder in 1979, but many now believe there is clear and convincing evidence that he is innocent.

"Most of us have heard the famous quotation that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Kevin Strickland stands as our own example of what happens when a system set to be just, just gets it terribly wrong," Baker said of the filing.

New legislation created by the Missouri legislature allows for a new route to freedom for people who were convicted of a crime and now presumed innocent.

Missouri now joins other states that have enacted the same law.

Members of the National Organization of Exonerees held a rally in Jefferson City, Missouri, on Monday to call for the release of Strickland and Lamar Johnson.

Kenneth Nixon said the law is the same one that got him and others out of prison in Michigan.

"We absolutely, 100% believe that this creates an avenue and a vehicle for these gentlemen to regain their freedoms," Nixon said.

Another exoneree, Marvin Cotton Jr., said the law also creates hope on a much greater scale.

"We say we want a more perfect union, well having a more perfect union means we continue to come up with ideas and implement ideas to actually make things better," Cotton Jr. said.

Nixon knows first-hand what the journey to freedom feels like for Strickland.

"I can tell you exactly what he's going through, stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, days without eating, losing focus, you can't pay attention because all you can think about is your freedom," Nixon said.

Strickland's lawyer, Robert Hoffman, said he commends the approach taken by Peters Baker.

"When we came to them with this case they were able to look at it with fresh eyes and with an open mind," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said Missouri is now joining the ranks of many other states enacting the same law to allow a local prosecutor to file a motion to vacate or set aside the judgment if they have information that the convicted person may be innocent or wrongfully convicted.

"There's a recognition that our system isn't perfect and that there needs to be some vehicle for remedy when we find errors that have been made," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said he spoke on the phone to Strickland Monday morning.

"I think he's a little overwhelmed honestly, but he's obviously excited to have someone believe in him," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the court has since set a hearing for Thursday, Sept. 2 at 8:30 a.m. The hearing will be a first for his career.

"This is unique in that the defendant and the prosecutor are all on the same side, we all see it in the same direction," he said.

He hopes the court will issue a ruling promptly after.

In the mean time, exonerees such as Nixon and Cotton Jr. will continue spreading awareness and pushing for Strickland's release.

"We are extremely hopeful that this law will do what it was designed to do," Nixon said.

Gov. Mike Parson said he did not know whether or not Strickland was innocent, so he chose not to issue a pardon many advocates had pushed for. Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he believes Strickland is guilty. He was also denied exoneration by the state supreme court, leaving very few routes to appeal freedom before the new law.

The prosecutor's office said they look forward to presenting the evidence of innocence in the same room where Strickland was convicted.

Strickland also awaits an evidentiary hearing scheduled for November.

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