Kevin Strickland is a 62-year-old innocent black man who has been in prison for 43 years for a crime he did not commit. The Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, has studied all the evidence and determined Kevin is innocent. She has publicly apologized to Kevin on behalf of the State of Missouri and is now fighting for his freedom. The Midwest Innocence Project is also fighting for Kevin.
Kevin was convicted of murder. The perpetrators of this crime have served their 10 years or less and have long since been freed. They say Kevin was not involved. The eyewitness to the crime recanted her testimony in a letter to the Innocence Project, saying Kevin was not at the scene and that she was coerced to testify as she did. She has since died.
He has been robbed of his youth, his health and much of his life’s potential. He doesn’t know what Googling or GPS is. He’s never had a cell phone in his hand. “Grease” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” might have been movies he missed. His family paid 63 cents for a gallon of gas and 48 cents for a dozen eggs. His brother could have worn Star Wars pajamas at sleepovers. The first Garfield comic strip was published the year Kevin went to prison. Forty-three years is a long time.
Kevin has been deprived of relationships with his family and opportunities to create a productive life for himself. His mother died and was buried while Kevin waited for freedom so he could go see her. He has almost completely lost the use of his legs and uses a state-owned wheelchair.
The Missouri Supreme Court denied Kevin a hearing. Gov. Mike Parson says Kevin was tried by a jury of his peers (a young black guy before an all-white jury) so justice was served. The governor also says he has a long list of those who are seeking pardon or exoneration and Kevin’s case just isn’t a “priority” after 43 years and he cannot “jump to the front of the line.”
For comparison, however, in July Parson pardoned the white St. Louis couple who waved guns at protest marchers in 2020. They were charged with assault and harassment and Mark McCloskey, even before the pardon, said he would “do it again.” He is now running for office to represent Missouri in the US Senate as a Republican.
The Missouri attorney general, Eric Schmitt, says he thinks Kevin is guilty and is fighting to prevent a hearing under a new law that could set Kevin free. This effort to delay a hearing for Kevin will be presented to a judge on Sept. 13.
An injustice to one of us is an injustice to all of us. Please let your governor and your attorney general know an innocent man must be freed—after 43 years, it’s time. Let Kevin Strickland roll out of that Missouri prison in his own wheelchair. Missouri has a lot of apologizing to do. And Kevin’s got a lot of life to catch up on.