KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Apologies are 43 years too late for Kevin Strickland, who has spent more than half of his life behind bars for murders prosecutors say he did not commit.
“It’s important when instances like this arise that you do everything you can to try and right the wrong," Rep. Robert Sauls (D-Independence) said, "and I think that’s what many people involved are trying to do."
And more lawmakers are joining the fight to free Strickland, after the Missouri Supreme Court denied his appeal for exoneration.
It's a growing effort that led Rep. Andrew McDaniel (R-Deering) to write Gov. Mike Parson, calling on him to pardon Strickland.
“I was like why is the guy still – Why is he still in prison if all these circumstances have lined up like this?" McDaniel said. “Each day is an atrocity.”
When a letter with just McDaniel's name wasn't enough, he wrote again. This time with the backing of more than 20 legislators from both sides of the aisle.
"I think that a prosecutor's job is to seek justice," Sauls said, "and, in this case, when you’re dealing with someone who is wrongfully convicted - I think unequivocally justice is freedom."
Still, he said more than two-dozen lawmakers joining efforts is not enough.
“While that number sounds good, there are 164 of us in the House and 34 in the Senate, so I would say that, ultimately, I would hope more would sign-on," Sauls said.
Lawyers from the Midwest Innocence Project are so confident Strickland will, at some point, be released - they've already created a GoFundMe page to help get his life back on track.
Begging the question, if so many people know Strickland is innocent -– why does he still sit behind bars more than four decades later?
“I think that that just speaks to the fact that we are in desperate need of something to address this problem," Sauls said.
Rep. Richard Brown (D-Kansas City) signed the letter too.
"We need to do everything within our power to get him released," he said. "I was 13 years old when Mr. Strickland went to prison... I’m about to turn 58. That man has been in jail a long time. He has more days behind him and ahead of him.“
In May, Jackson County Prosecutor Attorney Jean Peters Baker called for his conviction to be overturned after new evidence in the case surfaced.
In 1978, Strickland was convicted for a shooting that left three people dead and another injured.
Peters Baker, the Midwest Innocence Project and Strickland's attorney said that a co-defendant of Strickland, described the events of the shooting. The co-defendant named three people who were involved and none of them were Strickland.