“I decided to spend this birthday as awake as possible,” he told ABC News in an exclusive interview. “I never know if it will be your last.”
“I think it was destroyed,” continued Strickland. “I environment Here I had to adapt to life with all sorts of confessed criminals. I don’t think it’s normal for someone in society to see things right now. “
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office is the same prosecutor’s office that first tried Strickland in 1978 in Kansas City, Missouri, for the murder of three people.
“I’m claiming Mr. Strickland’s freedom here, and his conviction should be revoked,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in May. “But most importantly, I insist that this man must be released soon.”
After a few weeks, Strickland is still behind the bar. He doesn’t think he has “too much time left” and says he may need a wheelchair to move.
“I have had several heart attacks,” Strickland said. “I have high blood pressure. My ability to stand has decreased.”
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After the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) undertook his proceedings three years ago, there is a growing call for the release of Strickland.
“Here, when there is no innocent problem, I think the prosecutor and other officials agree that he should go home,” said MIP lawyer Tricia Rojo Bushnell. “I certainly hope our elected officials give it a really hard and quick look.”
Currently, more than 12 state legislators are seeking Missouri Governor Mike Parson for Strickland’s amnesty. Among them, Congressman Andrew McDaniel, Republican Chairman of the State Capitol Committee, which oversees the prison system.
Three people killed in Kansas City
Strickland was sentenced to 1979, a year after being arrested for the horrific triple murder.
The horrific shooting killed 20-year-old John Walker, 22-year-old Sherry Black, and 21-year-old Larry Ingram. It took place more than 3.2km away from his parents’ home in Strickland, where he was staying.
Strickland, then 18 years old, said he was watching TV or talking on the phone at home when the crime broke out.
Relatives confirmed his alibi at the time. He says police did not start accusing him of triple murder until the next morning.
He said he remembers thinking, “This can’t happen.”
The crime shook the community. Two other suspects, Vincent Bell and Kilm Adkins, were on the run while Strickland was detained and charged with murder. Police later arrested them for the crime.
Police said they found Strickland’s fingerprint on Bell’s car. Strickland, who grew up with Bell, said he had driven a car many times.
“Bell, he actually lived … [with] Two homes between his parents’ home and my home. … and I met them, and I was in sixth grade, “said Strickland.
Strickland said he only saw Bell and Adkins early at 5 or 6 pm on the day of the murder and didn’t know what they were going to do that night.
At the time, he said he was confident that the only surviving victim, Cynthia Douglas, knew him and knew he was not involved. However, Douglas later pointed him out as one of the archers in the police lineup.
He said, “I can’t believe it completely.” But Strickland didn’t expect to be convicted, believing that “no, the system is working.”
“It works. They don’t make such mistakes. This is a murder crime,” he said of his thoughts at the time. “This is a big deal. They don’t make mistakes or grab the wrong person. Do they do?”
His first trial ended with the jury being hanged. The only black jury was the only holdout.
“I will never forget it,” Strickland said. He said the prosecutor at the time had come to his table after the trial. “I was sitting there and he told my lawyer,” I’m going to prevent this from happening next time, “he said.
“What did that mean,” Bushnell said. [that in] In the second trial, the prosecutor used all of his forced strikes … to strike the remaining black jury from the pool. And Mr. Strickland was convicted by a pure white jury. “
Strickland says he “completely” believes that race has played a role in his beliefs. He says he was not given a presumption of innocence in the second trial.
“I didn’t know I could cry so badly,” he said, recalling his first trial. “That is unbelievable.”
Both Bell and Adkins finally admitted the murder and wiped out Strickland from any role in the confession crimes they swore.
Acknowledge Kevin Strickland’s innocence
At a press conference earlier this month, Prosecutor Baker, who was not involved in the original case, said, “It’s important to recognize when the system was wrong and what we did in this case was wrong.” Said.
Strickland said his perception of innocence would help.
“Yes, I’m from her,” he said. “Yes, because she didn’t have to say that.”
Strickland has always maintained his innocence, but in February 2009 when MIP received an unexpected email from Douglas, others began to rethink the case.
“I’m looking for information on how to help someone who has been accused of being unjustly accused,” she wrote. “I was the only witness at the time and the situation wasn’t clear, but now I want to know more and hopefully help this person.”
According to Kansas City Star reporter Luke Nozicca, Douglas eventually told her relatives that police had put pressure on her during the lineup. She now told her ex-husband that police had only to choose Strickland, and that this would be over.
“She didn’t do this intentionally,” Strickland said. “The Kansas City Police have pushed to identify me … they tell her either you work with us or we intend to make these accusations to you. I think I said. [have] I even suggested she was involved in some way. “
In a statement to ABC News, Kansas City police said, “The case was tried and prosecuted by the Jackson County Public Prosecutor’s Office. They will be the only ones seeking comment on the case … with all the details. Cases containing comments must come from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. “
Douglas died afterwards, but she recorded her resignation in various places and told different people about her resignation.
“The most important evidence was the resignation of the witnesses,” Baker said.
Battle for the liberation of Kevin Strickland
Last week, the Missouri Governor’s Office announced 36 amnesty, but Strickland wasn’t one of them.
“When: [Strickland’s case] Come out and take a look at those cases, but I don’t know [if] “It’s inevitably a top priority,” Parson said. “I understand that there are cases that get more attention than others through the media, but I’ll just look at those.” Told.
Strickland has served behind the bar for over 15,000 days. If exonerated, his term would be one of the longest illegal imprisonment in US history.
“Let’s just call it what it is. This is wrong,” Baker said. “Everyone working on this system has to find a way to do the right thing. Now the right thing is to get rid of Mr. Strickland.”
Baker said that even if Kevin Strickland was allowed, he would get nothing more than an apology.
“Under Missouri law, those who are exonerated cannot be compensated. That’s another mistake,” she said.
In Missouri’s “Shaw Me”, it’s unclear what else Strickland must do to prove his innocence.
For decades, the state Attorney General’s office has fought almost all illegal convictions, according to Injustice Watch. For Strickland, the commutation of his sentence is not enough-he wants to be pardoned or exonerated.
“”[Commutation is] It’s like saying I did it, but you feel like I’ve provided enough time. No, I didn’t do that, “he said.
Bell and Adkins each served in prison for about 10 years after admitting the crime, with Strickland not involved.
“That is, I can’t believe it,” Strickland said. “That is, I don’t know how to get in and out, allowing someone to do it,” he said. “I denied it from the beginning, and I’m still here. You keep returning me to emotions, and I really can’t put them into words.”
Simply put, Strickland says he is “numb”.
One of the things he feels is a nasty feeling of loss. His childhood home is now just a vacant lot. His brother, LR Strickland, who always claims to be at home on the night of the murder, told ABC News that his mother might not have much time to live.
“I really hate to miss my daughter grow up and call someone else a dad,” Strickland said. “Yes, that’s a pain.”
He and his family want them to meet again someday.
“My dad never lost his trust in his son Kevin,” said LR Strickland. “He visited him on every occasion. He visited my brother even after he could no longer be due to medical problems. My father died in 2011. I believe [he] My heart ached because I didn’t see my father release his son from prison. That was a big deal for him. “
Kevin Strickland said he joked with a friend that he might have to live under the bridge if released.
“What do I have? That is, if they … take this [wheel]Chair, I would have to crawl out the front door. I have nothing. “
He says he doesn’t know what justice is, but he knows he hasn’t seen it yet.
Kevin Strickland said he had more expression and eyes on his proceedings and had “more than ever” hope.
Nonetheless, just last week, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a petition to release him. This is what his lawyer calls a procedural barrier.
“I don’t know why the Missouri Supreme Court denied it,” Bushnell said. “It was simply denied and no explanation was given.”
Bushnell has petitioned the Lower Circuit Court in DeKalb County, where Kevin Strickland is held.
“They asked the Attorney General to respond in July and inform them of their position,” she said.
Another course they may take is to go through a state legislative bill.
“The Missouri State Parliament has just passed Senate Bill 53, a bill that allows prosecutors to make the following allegations: [a] “A new trial to overturn an illegal conviction,” he said. “Therefore, if the law comes into force, it will come into force on August 28.”
The bill sits at the governor’s desk, waiting for his signature. Strickland is also waiting. He says he wants to see the sea someday.
“I’ve never been to a beach, no, not even an artificial beach,” he said. “want to go [a] The clear sea where you can see sand and water. And I want you to go far into the sea, where you can’t see the land or the direction, and you want to go into the water, not just go out there. I want to feel the power. God’s creation you know. “
Karin Weinberg, Cho Park, Stephanie Fasano and Anna Katharine Ping of ABC News contributed to this report.
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