On Tuesday, a Missouri court judge ordered the immediate release of Kevin Strickland, a 62-year-old African American man who had been wrongfully convicted of a triple homicide in 1978 and who has spent the last 42 years in prison. Strickland was the longest wrongful sentence in Missouri history and one of the longest in US history. Her case had recently been re-examined due to doubts about the evidence and testimony that led to her conviction. All these years Strickland had always said he was innocent.
Strickland was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years in June 1979, following a robbery of a home in Kansas City, the most populous city in Missouri. The robbery had been carried out on April 25 of the previous year, when he was 18: four attackers had killed three people inside the house, all between 20 and 22 years old; a fourth person, a twenty-year-old girl, had managed to save herself after being injured and pretending to be dead.
Strickland was arrested the following day following a cue and was convicted on the basis of the testimony of the only girl who survived the robbery, Cynthia Douglas, who later said she was pressured by the police to name him as one of the guilty. Strickland had said that he had been at home that night watching television with various members of his family, who had confirmed his version. During the investigation no evidence had emerged to show that he had participated in the robbery, and the other people indicted for the robbery, who knew him, had said that he was not there.
Years after the trial, Douglas retracted his testimony by speaking to a nonprofit that is involved in providing legal aid to wrongfully convicted people, but he died before officially withdrawing it. Thanks to a new state law, the Strickland case could be re-examined starting last year, with the conclusion that dozens of fingerprints, including those on the firearm used to kill people during the robbery, were not. her.
In total, Strickland was unjustly incarcerated for 15,487 days. Released from prison on Tuesday, he said he wanted to visit his mother’s grave and he wanted to see the ocean, adding: “I didn’t think this day would ever come.”
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