Kevin Strickland has been released from prison 43 years after being wrongly convicted for murder. But he will not be given compensation for his decadeslong false imprisonment.
A judge in the US state of Missouri on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a man who has spent over four decades in prison.
Kevin Strickland, a 62-year-old Black man, was found guilty of a triple homicide in 1979 and was sentenced to life in prison by an all white jury.
Judge James Welsh ordered Strickland’s immediate release after state prosecutors agreed earlier in the year that he had been wrongly convicted.
“I’m not necessarily angry. It’s a lot. I think I’ve created emotions that you all don’t know about just yet,” he told reporters as he left the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.
“Joy, sorrow, fear. I am trying to figure out how to put them together.”
The evidence against Strickland, who was 18 at the time of the murders, came mainly from the eye-witness account of Cynthia Douglas, the sole survivor of the incident.
She testified in court that she had seen him, but then later recanted, saying that she had been pressured by the police to identify Strickland.
Douglas spent years trying to bring attention to the case, but she died in 2015.
Two other men who were convicted of the murders also said that Strickland had not been involved. They instead identified two other men who were never charged.
During his first trial, the one Black juror held out for his acquittal. A second trial, with only white jurors, found him guilty.
Two Republican lawmakers, Missouri Governor Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is running for the US Senate, tried to stop Strickland’s release.
“Even when the prosecutor is on your side, it took months and months for Mr. Strickland to come home and he still had to come home to a system that will not provide him any compensation for the 43 years he lost,” said Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project that supported Strickland’s case.
Missouri only offers compensation for wrongful imprisonment where DNA evidence is behind the exoneration.
“That is not justice,” Bushnell said. “We are hopeful that folks are paying so much attention and really asking the question of ‘What should our system of justice look like?”’