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Decision on Kevin Strickland's innocence could come Nov. 8

Kevin Strickland
Posted at 4:09 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 20:46:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Kevin Strickland should know in about a month if he will be released from prison after more than 40 years behind bars.

Retired Missouri Court of Appeals Judge James Welsh set the evidentiary hearing for Nov. 8 after a hearing Friday in Jackson County Court.

Both sides in the case have argued over discovery issues.

A conference will be held before the Nov. 8 hearing to be certain both sides have what they need for the hearing.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office said they are still waiting on results from about 70 fingerprints collected from the murder scene 43 years ago. Attorneys said they also need to interview an inmate in a Colorado prison who was a witness.

The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, who brought the case before a judge after a new statute was passed, said the case comes down to a witness's testimony that named Strickland as the shooter that was later recanted, and that's all the AG's office should need.

"To start running around outside the fence and say, 'Let's start getting everybody's fingerprint that was ever there,' I think takes us away from the time constraints we're under as well as the focus that the prosecutor used to bring this very unusual motion," said Chip Robertson with the prosecutor's office.

Strickland's attorneys argued that the AG's office shouldn't have every piece of discovery, such as those fingerprints.

They've also pointed out several times that the process should not be delayed.

"That urgency is why this statute does not provide for discovery because the only person who has a right, has due process right, is our client, Mr. Strickland, whose liberty interests are at stake as we wait," said Trisha Bucknell, one of Strickland's attorneys.

The AG's office told the judge when the moving party, the side trying to free Strickland, is on the same side as the responding party, Strickland, it creates a conflict of interest.

So, they argue they should have access to all evidence.

"I think even under the prosecutor's office view of discovery, the fingerprints are relevant because, after all, they've alleged that fingerprints are part of the reason why Mr. Strickland's conviction should be set aside," said Greg Goodwin, attorney for the AG's office.

Judge Welsh agreed, but urged both sides to work together so the Nov. 8 hearing happens as scheduled.

An earlier hearing set for this week was canceled after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Jackson County judges could not preside over the Strickland case.

Welsh was appointed Sept. 30 to take over the case.

Strickland has been in prison nearly all his life.

An all-white jury convicted Strickland in a 1978 triple murder at a house in Kansas City, Missouri.

Strickland has maintained his innocence since the murders of Sherrie Black, 22, Larry Ingram, 21, and John Walker, 20.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker's office filed a motion Aug. 30 to set aside Strickland's conviction and set him free.

Strickland is the only person sentenced under a former Missouri law known as the "Hard 50."

The sentence meant Strickland must serve at least 50 years before he's eligible for parole.