Kevin Strickland’s fight for freedom will stay in Jackson County, judge rules

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A man’s claim of being wrongly convicted will be heard in Jackson County court next month. That’s the decision a judge made Friday in the case of Kevin Strickland.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt wants Strickland to remain behind bars.

Lawyers for the AG tried to move Strickland’s case out of Jackson County, arguing that all Jackson County judges should disqualify themselves because the presiding judge already made a statement agreeing that Strickland should be set free.

But Jackson County Judge Kevin Harrell found no factual basis to recuse himself from the case and will hear Strickland’s new evidence as soon as October 5.

“Ironically and unequivocally this court was not even aware of the presiding judge’s comments prior to this issue being litigated and these proceedings,” Harrell said. “Without hesitation this court has and would recuse itself if I felt I had any biases or predispositions that would frustrate my judicial impartiality.”

At the October hearing, lawyers plan to present evidence of how Cynthia Douglas, the only witness to the triple homicide for which Strickland is imprisoned, tried for years to recant her testimony identifying Strickland as the shooter. Douglas died in 2015.

“We are going to bring very reliable testimony of a witness, who unfortunately is deceased,” said Robert Hoffman, Strickland’s attorney. “So we really don’t have any option other than the folks she talked to and things she said and did while she was alive.”

The Attorney General continues to object to Strickland’s hearing, and is expected to continue fighting the efforts to set him free.

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