© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri Inmate Who Has Spent 23 Years Saying He's Innocent Must Now Be Freed Or Retried

The Midwest Innocence Project
A judge has ruled that Ricky Kidd, who's been behind bars for 23 years for a double murder he says he didn't commit, is innocent and must either be freed or given a new trial.

After Ricky Kidd spent decades in prison for a 1996 double murder in Kansas City, Missouri, he says he didn't commit, a DeKalb County judge has found Kidd innocent and ordered that he be freed from prison unless prosecutors pursue a new trial within 30 days.

The ruling comes a few months after Kidd was finally granted a hearing for a civil lawsuit against the state, which claimed that Kidd's custody is illegal because his conviction was illegally obtained.

His lawyers told KCUR in May this was Kidd's last chance at freedom.

"This was the first time that a judge has had all of the evidence [in Kidd's case] in front of him, with the power to consider it. It was the first time Ricky had his day in court," said Sean O'Brien, one of Kidd's attorneys.

Kidd has maintained his innocence for 23 years, in part, because he said he was not given a fair trial.

In April's hearing, O'Brien and attorneys from the Midwest Innocence Project argued that Kidd's original defense lawyer was unable to present a complete defense because the state withheld testimony. Also at that hearing, they questioned a key eyewitness of the state who recanted his identification of Kidd as the murderer. 

In his ruling Wednesday, DeKalb County Judge Daren Adkins issued Kidd the writ of habeas corpus because he found Kidd did not have a fair trial, but that even if he did, Kidd was innocent of the murders of which he was convicted. 

"Surely the incarceration of a prisoner in the absence of any substantial or persuasive evidence of guilt is a fundamental miscarriage of justice," Adkins wrote.

He wrote the evidence was "clear and convincing" that Kidd was innocent of the 1996 murders of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges, and that the "prosecution did not disclose exculpatory evidence that was material to the outcome of Kidd's case."

O'Brien said he does not expect that the Jackson County Prosecutor's office will file new charges for a new trial. 

In a statement, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her office had yet to be contacted by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which represented the state in this case.

“We will review this matter immediately to determine appropriate next steps. Our obligation here as with every case is to seek the truth,” the statement read.

Chris Nuelle, press secretary for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, told KCUR they were reviewing the judge's decision, but would refrain from commenting because of potential litigation.

Kidd's attorneys are requesting that the judge grant Kidd bail and release him on his own recognizance.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from the Attorney General's Office.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.