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Missouri Supreme Court denies Kevin Strickland's exoneration request

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Posted at 11:48 AM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 19:28:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear Kevin Strickland's attempt to exonerate himself.

Strickland has been in prison for the past 43 years for a shooting that left three people dead and one other hurt on Aug. 25, 1978.

Robert Hoffman, a volunteer attorney on Strickland’s case, said the fight is far from over, describing Strickland’s reaction as stoic when he learned his request had been denied.

“We now know – and really have known for a very long time – that he’s actually innocent," Hoffman said, "and yet the process and the barriers of the process that are in place to stop him from being freed are really challenging, and that’s what’s heartbreaking about it to me."

They attorney said his next step is to file a similar petition in 43rd Circuit Court in DeKalb County.

But the fight isn’t over for Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker either. She vowed to make progress for Strickland by the end of summer.

“This is not the end," Peters Baker said, "not the end. I can assure Mr. Strickland this, if on the calendar Aug. 28 comes and it’s 9 a.m., I will file a motion on his behalf in this building in this courthouse... for his exoneration.”

Peters Baker said she believes Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will sign legislation, which would becomes effective at that time, that gives her a tool to deal with cases like Strickland. More specifically, to file a motion where he would receive an opportunity for a new trial.

“More opportunity rather than just a DNA exoneration, an exoneration for a recantation," Peters Baker said.

Over the holiday weekend, Parson announced he has granted pardons to 36 people.

41 Action News reached out to Parson's office for comment on Strickland's case, but he was unavailable.

Once the families of the 36 individuals have been notified, the names will be made public. That announcement, according to Parson's office, will come in a matter of days.

In the meantime, many are waiting to see if Strickland's name will be on that list. But Hoffman said Strickland not applied, and maintains he wants a full exoneration to show he's innocent.

In May, Peters Baker, Hoffman and the Midwest Innocence Project called for his conviction to be overturned.

“When mistakes like this are made, there can never be a day where it is too late to correct it and that is just the way it is going to be," Peters Baker said. "We are going to do everything we can to get him out.”

At the time, they cited new evidence that has since emerged in his wrongful conviction.

Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, said that months after Strickland's conviction, a co-defendant described the events of the shooting and named three other people involved. None of them were Strickland.

On Wednesday, Baker said her office would continue working to overturn the conviction.

"We are disappointed, but we are pursuing all avenues of exoneration for Mr. Strickland," Peters Baker said a statement.

In an email to 41 Action News, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Supreme Court said "as is typical with such orders, no rationale was provided," as to why Strickland's request was denied.