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Kevin Strickland free after 43 years in prison on wrongful conviction

Posted at 11:36 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 21:52:59-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kevin Strickland will finally walk free after being imprisoned for the last 43 years for a crime he did not commit.

Strickland was convicted by a jury in a 1978 triple murder. It was his second jury trial, as the first ended in a mistrial.

READ |Judge James Welsh's ruling

Strickland's youngest brother, Warren Thornton, was ecstatic when KSHB 41 News told him of his brother's freedom.

"God is good!" Thornton exclaimed.

Strickland is to be immediately discharged from the state's custody, according to the judgment.

The conviction rested heavily on the eyewitness testimony of the lone survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas.

In the evidentiary hearing to set him free, Strickland’s legal team called multiple witnesses to the stand, many of whom were Douglas’ family and friends.

TIMELINE | Kevin Strickland's 43-year fight for freedom

Each recalled times when Douglas told them she’d chosen the wrong man in 1978.

Douglas even made an effort in February 2009 to start the process to free Strickland with the following email to the Midwest Innocence Project:

“I am seeking info on how to help someone that was wrongfully accused, this incident happened back in 1978, I was the only eyewitness and things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can.”

She died in 2015 after a prolonged illness before she could formally recant her testimony.

Expert testimony from Dr. Nancy Franklin further showed how Douglas’ initial identification of Strickland could have been wrong.

The trauma of the crime, a poorly selected lineup and influence from those around her all contributed to Douglas’ misidentification of Strickland as the man who held the shotgun that night, Franklin said.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office appeared in court to uphold Strickland’s conviction.

The AG’s representatives argued Douglas’ recantations were nothing but “hearsay,” and did not meet the standard needed to clear a conviction.

Ultimately, Judge James Welsh, specially appointed to the case by the Supreme Court of Missouri, ruled Strickland would be freed.

Strickland served the longest sentence of any wrongfully convicted person in Missouri.