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16 years later, Missouri man exonerated for murder meets judge who released him for 1st time

Darryl Burton
Posted at 9:39 PM, Feb 01, 2024

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Darryl Burton is a preacher at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

He's also the co-founder of the Miracle of Innocence Project, which has helped free four people in in six years.

However, Burton doesn't like titles because for too long, he was given one he didn't deserve.

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"They referred to you as a number — Burton 153063," he said.

Darryl Burton
Darryl Burton kept all of his personal belongings from prison, including the clothes he had to wear with his inmate number 153063.

The number that matters today is, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, Burton is one of 3,284 people who've been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989.

"No motive. No ballistics. No DNA. No confession. No weapon. No fingerprints. Nothing connecting me to the crime," he said.

He kept many reminders of the 24 years he spent in the Missouri State Penitentiary for a murder he did not commit.

The prison was shut down in 2004 and was once known as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America”.

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Darryl Burton kept hair clippers he was allowed to have in prison with his inmate label 153063.

"There was a huge banner — 'Welcome to the Missouri State Penitentiary,' leave all your hopes, family and dreams behind,'" Burton said.

In 1984, Burton was arrested after a man was shot and killed.

He said a witness described the shooter as a light-skinned, 5 feet, 5 inches-tall man, but his skin is dark.

He did not belong in prison and according to him, former Cole County Judge Richard Callahan realized that.

"He said my case was the first case of innocence he ever reviewed in his court," Burton said.

Burton went back to the former prison this week and reconnected with the judge for the first time since he was released.

Darryl Burton
Darryl Burton with former Cole County Judge Richard Callahan.

"It was a little bit awkward for me, probably not for him, because there was a time I hated judges and anyone who had anything to do with the criminal justice system," Burton said.

He was exonerated, saved from death row, but free? Not without a strong faith.

Now, Burton has advice to anyone in his shoes today.

"It takes a God to move those mountains."

Burton credits Centurion Ministries for his freedom. He wrote journals of his experience for 20 years that are now included in his memoir "Innocent: A Second Look."

The Miracle of Innocence Project is currently working on at least five cases to free people they believe were wrongfully convicted.

Burton is still pursuing options to take legal action against the city of St. Louis.