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Missouri Supreme Court Will Not Consider Kevin Strickland's Innocence Case

060221_cm_Strickland_Ruling
Photo Illustration-Carlos Moreno
/
Missouri Innocence Project
Despite being declared innocent by the prosecutor's office, Kevin Strickland is still doing time for a triple-murder that happened 43 years ago.

The decision means the state's high court will not settle questions about whether a person's innocence is enough to overturn a wrongful conviction.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to consider the innocence petition of a Kansas City man convicted of a triple-murder more than 40 years ago, despite the prosecutor’s claim that he has been wrongfully imprisoned.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker expressed disappointment with the high court’s decision in a statement Wednesday morning.

"But we are pursuing all avenues of exoneration for Mr. Strickland," she wrote.

The Jackson County Prosecutor's office charged Strickland with capital murder in 1978 for his alleged involvement in the killing of Sherrie Black, John Walker and Larry Ingram at 6934 S. Benton Ave. in Kansas City.

He was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years.

But last month, after reviewing evidence that has emerged since the murders, Baker’s office said Strickland is innocent and should be set free. Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Missouri, Jackson County’s presiding judge and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas agreed.

Strickland has spent the last 43 years behind bars.

The 1978 conviction hinged on the testimony of Cynthia Douglas, who was shot in the leg during the attack. Afterwards, Douglas immediately identified two of the suspects, both of whom eventually pleaded guilty. But, according to a letter from the Jackson County Prosecutor, Douglas only got “a glance” at the third suspect.

She didn’t pick out Strickland, who she knew personally, until the next day, and only after it was suggested to her by her sister’s boyfriend.

Douglas recanted her testimony against Strickland in 2009, and, as reported by the Kansas City Star in September, the two men who pleaded guilty in the shooting named someone else as their accomplice.

The high court's decision this week came without explanation, which is typical for such orders.

Strickland still has routes toward freedom and exoneration. Gov. Mike Parson could pardon him outright, or sign into law the General Assembly’s omnibus public safety bill, which includes a provision that would allow prosecuting attorneys to file such innocence motions with the circuit court that handed down the conviction.

Representatives from Parson's office told KCUR they expect to release a list of pardons on Thursday.

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