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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

$ 900,000 raised for a man released after 43 years in prison

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Thousands of people are raising money online for a Missouri man who served 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Kevin Strickland, 62, was exonerated Tuesday morning after serving decades at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. Strickland was convicted in 1979 of one count of capital murder and two counts of second degree murder in a triple homicide. He received a 50-year life sentence without the possibility of parole for a crime in which, over the years, he maintained he had not been involved.

Chief Judge James Welsh dismissed all criminal charges against Strickland. His release makes his confinement the longest wrongful incarceration in Missouri’s history and one of the longest in the nation, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

The Midwest Innocence Project created a GoFundMe account to help Strickland restart his life, as he does not qualify for assistance from the state of Missouri.

In Missouri, only those cleared through DNA testing are eligible for $ 50 per day of post-conviction confinement, according to the Innocence Project. That was not the case with Strickland.

As of Thursday afternoon, donations for Strickland had exceeded $ 910,000.

The fund was created over the summer with the goal of raising US $ 7,500, which the fund says would amount to approximately US $ 175 for each year Strickland spent wrongfully convicted.

Thirty-six states and Washington, DC, have laws on the books that offer compensation to those exonerated, according to the Innocence Project. The federal standard for compensating those who are wrongfully convicted is a minimum of US $ 50,000 per year of incarceration, plus an additional amount for each year spent on death row.

ADAPTING TO A NEW WORLD

Strickland said he learned of his release through a breaking news report that interrupted the soap opera he was watching Tuesday.

The first thing he did after his release was visit his mother’s grave.

“Knowing that my mother was under that dirt and that I hadn’t had a chance to visit her in the last few years … I went through those tears I made when they told me I was guilty of a crime I didn’t commit.” Strickland told Brianna Keilar from CNN on Wednesday.

His first night out of prison was restless, where thoughts of going back to prison, among others, kept him awake, he said Wednesday.

“I am used to living in a closed and confined cell where I know exactly what is going on with me,” he said. “And being at home and you hear the creaking of the house being installed and the electrical wiring and whatever else … I was a little scared. I thought someone would come looking for me.”

CONVICTED AS AN ADOLESCENT, EXONERATED AS AN ADULT

Four people were shot in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 25, 1978, resulting in three deaths, according to CNN affiliate KSHB. The sole survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas, who died in 2015, testified in 1978 that Strickland was at the scene of the triple murder.

Douglas suffered a shotgun wound and told police that Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins were two of the perpetrators. But he didn’t identify Strickland, whom he knew, as at the scene until a day later, according to KSHB, after it was suggested that Strickland’s hair matched Douglas’s description of the shooter. Douglas claimed her initial failure to identify him was due to the use of brandy and marijuana, according to KSHB.

But for the past 30 years, he’s been saying he made a mistake and falsely identified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas made efforts to free Strickland through the Midwest Innocence Project.

The two assailants he identified at the scene pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and each ended up serving about 10 years in prison for the crimes, according to Strickland’s attorney, Robert Hoffman.

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