A Kansas City man who’s been imprisoned for more than 40 years for a triple murder that he vehemently denies committing, was granted an evidentiary hearing that could lead to his conviction being overturned, NBC News reports.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with these murders. By no means was I anywhere close to that crime scene,” Kevin Strickland said at the hearing.
Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Prosecutor, along with other legal counselors and political leaders all believe that Strickland was wrongfully convicted. She claims that the evidence used to convict him had been recanted or disproven since his first trial.
“This is a triple murder in which three young people were executed,” Peters Baker said Monday at the hearing. “The tragedy was made much, much worse by Kevin Strickland’s conviction.”
Strickland’s first trial ended in a hung jury because a Black woman juror believed he was innocent. In his second trial in 1978, an all-white jury convicted him of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Larry Ingram, John Walker, and Sherrie Black, in Kansas City.
Maintaining his innocence throughout the ordeal, he was only 18 when he received a life sentence.
Strickland’s legal team and the Attorney General’s office said in opening statements that the testimony from Cynthia Douglas, the only survivor of the shootings who identified Strickland as the shooter, would be the most important component in deciding his fate. According to Strickland’s supporters, Douglas recanted her testimony before she died.
Andrew Clarke, an assistant prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office, stated the evidence pointed to Strickland being guilty and recorded phone calls between Douglas and her husband while he was incarcerated prove she was not interested in helping Strickland prove his innocence
Back in June, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear Strickland’s petition and Republican Gov. Mike Parson also refused to pardon Strickland, saying he wasn’t convinced that he was innocent.
Hearings were scheduled in August in DeKalb County, where Strickland is imprisoned. Those hearings were canceled after Peters Baker used a new state law to seek an evidentiary hearing in Jackson County, where Strickland was convicted. The law allows local prosecutors to challenge convictions if they believe the defendant did not commit the crime.
Attorney General Schmitt, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, who once said he believes Strickland is guilty, sought to have all 16th Circuit judges in Jackson County recused from presiding over the hearing because the presiding judge in that circuit had said he agreed that Strickland was wrongfully convicted.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 30 that the Jackson County judges should be recused from the hearing to avoid accusations of bias which would delay the hearing.
James Welsh, a retired judge, was then appointed to preside over the case