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Innocent Kansas City Man Who Spent 23 Years In Prison Will Remain Free

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Ricky Kidd on the day of his release from prison in August.

A month after a Missouri judge found Ricky Kidd innocent of a 1996 double murder and released him from prison after 23 years, Kidd's case has officially been dismissed.

Last month, Kidd was released from prison in Cameron, Missouri, one day after DeKalb County Circuit Judge Darren Adkins found that his original trial was unfair and the evidence was "clear and convincing"thatKidd was innocent.

Adkins gave the state of Missouri 30 days to decide whether to retry him. On Friday, the state moved to dismiss the case.

Kidd told KCUR he was flooded with emotion over the news.

"I just cried and laughed at the same time. Just the joy of knowing that I was free. But also knowing that I won't have to report back to prison, or ever have to deal with this nightmare again, at least not in any tangible way, being locked up," Kidd said.

In a statement, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she supported Kidd's release and found the evidence insufficient to pursue another trial against him.

"Our office must act as a minister of justice. We must ensure fairness to Mr. Kidd. And we must recognize that Mr. Kidd has already served 23 years in prison," she said.

The case grew out of the Feb. 6, 1996, shooting deaths of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges. Kidd and another man, Marcus Merrill, were convicted of the murders.

At an April hearing, which Kidd's attorneys described as his last chance at freedom, one eyewitness recanted his testimony against Kidd, and another witness — Bryant's daughter, who was 4 at the time — was found to have identified Kidd in a lineup under suggestive circumstances.

In his August order, Judge Adkins said "significant evidence" indicated that Gary Goodspeed Jr. and Gary Goodspeed Sr. were the true perpetrators.

Even so, Baker defended the original case against Kidd. 

"There is evidence connecting Kidd to the murders, specifically his knowledge of the Goodspeeds's and Merrill's plan to rob and murder Bryant, his statements, both then and more recently, about his contacts with these men in the days before and after the murders, and the out-of-court identification by Bryant's daughter," Baker stated in her court filing.

But in her statement, Baker said that due to the "passage of time, unavailability of some witnesses, and changed testimony," her office would be unable to establish Kidd's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a statement, Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said that the attorney general's office considered "the matter closed and will take no further action."

Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, said she didn't see how the state could come to any other conclusion. 

"I couldn't imagine any way in which you could retry Ricky or ever convict him. So, certainly I don't think that's any surprise. That doesn't mean it doesn't feel all the more amazing to know this nightmare is finally over for him. We're ecstatic," Bushnell told KCUR.

"There are no charges against him, there's nothing to be appealed, so this is it. Now he can focus all of his efforts on beginning to rebuild his life," Bushnell said. 

Kidd, a client of the Midwest Innocence Project for years, now works there as its community engagement manager. 

"He's been fighting his own battle for 23 years. Now he's going to help bring the resources needed to bring other people home," Bushnell said.

Kidd also said, independently of the Midwest Innocence Project, that he plans to put pressure on local and state officials to prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place. 

"That's going to be my thing, probably until the day I take my last breath," Kidd said. "It means everything to me."

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. 
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