Kevin Strickland, Convicted of Triple Murder, Exonerated After 40 Years in Prison

A Missouri judge exonerated Kevin Strickland and ordered his immediate release after more than 43 years in prison on Tuesday.

Strickland served the longest prison time for a wrongful conviction in Missouri's history and also one of the longest in the history of the nation. Strickland, 62, is among 12 exonerees who have survived 40 years or more of prison, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Strickland had been convicted in 1979 for the 1978 murder of three people who were killed after four suspects broke into a Kansas City bungalow. The only person who survived the shootings, Cynthia Douglas, later identified Strickland as one of the suspects and testified during his two trials.

Kevin Strickland
A Missouri judge ruled Tuesday that Kevin Strickland was wrongfully convicted for three murders and will be released after more than 40 years behind bars. In this photo, Strickland answers questions during an evidentiary hearing regarding his innocence on, November 8, 2021 in Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City, Missouri. Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star via AP, File

However, she later said police pressured her to tie Strickland to the crime. Douglas, who passed away in 2015, spent years trying to clear Strickland's name, according to testimony from her family, friends and a co-worker during the evidentiary hearing that led to Strickland's exoneration.

Strickland has long maintained his innocence. He has said he was home watching television during the time of the shootings. Additionally, The Kansas City Star reported that two other men who were convicted in the killings later insisted that Strickland wasn't with them.

The first trial for Strickland, who is Black, ended in a hung jury when the sole Black juror held out for acquittal. He was convicted by an all-white jury of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder in a second trial in 1979.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced in May that a review of the case led her to believe that Strickland was innocent. After the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear Strickland's petition, Peters Baker used a new state law to seek the evidentiary hearing.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed motions that delayed the hearing several times. However, on Tuesday, Judge James Welsh ruled that Strickland be exonerated and immediately released.

Quinton Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, celebrated the news of Strickland's release on Twitter Tuesday.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Strickland said there were two places that he hoped to visit if he were ever to be free again. One was the ocean, which he has never seen in person, and the other was his mother's grave.

"If we don't stop at the gravesite first, I'm going to get out of the car and I'm going to try to make it there on my hands and knees," Strickland said to the newspaper.