Story of Leawood pastor wrongly-imprisoned for 24 years may become book, movie

Posted at 4:01 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 09:33:41-04

A Missouri man wrongly imprisoned for nearly a quarter-century now preaches forgiveness in Kansas.

It sounds like a movie script and Pastor Darryl Burton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood says his life story might soon turn into a book or movie. 

"Just in the past couple of weeks, people from like the Oprah Winfrey camp, people from Steve Harvey," Burton said of agents and representatives who called him. "It's just coming from so many people, you know, in so many ways, and so that's just what keeps reminding me, 'Darryl, this is bigger than you.'"

Burton has traveled the world to share his story after serving 24 years in prison for a 1984 murder he didn't commit.

Separated From Family 

"I had a seven-month-old daughter who I saw three times and I didn't see her again until she was turning 25," Burton said. "For her, I'm a stranger that she's trying to get to know."

Burton finally reconnected with family when a judge released him in 2008. For decades in prison, Burton wrote letters pleading for help and convinced Centurion Ministries and Kansas City attorney Cheryl Pilate to represent him.

'Obvious' Innocence

"Darryl Burton's innocent. It's very obvious," Pilate told 41 Action News. "There was no physical evidence, there was no motive."

Burton's attorneys found documents that revealed prosecutors secretly reduced prison time for a criminal who testified against Burton. That man later admitted he made up his testimony.

Finding Forgiveness

"I was so full of anger and hate and bitterness, I was physically in prison, but I was also spiritually in prison," Burton said in his sermon about his life story and how he found forgiveness.

"I started praying for the people who I hated and the people who had done me wrong. The forgiveness wasn't for them, it was for me. It set me free," Burton said of forgiving while still locked up.

Although he forgives, Burton doesn't forget how state officials fought all his appeals as he tried to regain his freedom.

State Appeals 

"It takes so long and it's so hard to, you know, present these claims," Burton said.

Burton never received compensation for his wrongful conviction. He says he filed a lawsuit, but the state of Missouri fought it and won.

"These mistakes are huge! You're talking about a quarter-century of my life," Burton said.

'Impact The World'

Burton hopes his case will gain enough attention to help free other wrongly imprisoned people.

"I don't know how I don't know when I just believe it's going to become something that will impact the world," said Burton.

Burton tells us he's still deciding on which agent to sign with for a book and movie deal.