JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Jackson County’s prosecutor on Wednesday said she’s disappointed the state Supreme Court won’t hear the case of a Kansas City man imprisoned for more than 40 years for a triple murder that prosecutors say he didn’t commit.
Missouri Supreme Court judges on Tuesday denied 61-year-old Kevin Strickland’s case without providing an explanation.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in response said her office is “pursuing all avenues of exoneration for Mr. Strickland.” Strickland’s lawyers, including Midwest Innocence Project attorneys, said in a statement that they plan to refile his petition in circuit court.
“This denial is just one more procedural barrier the system throws up in front of innocent people,” they said. “There is no doubt that Mr. Strickland is innocent and every court should have the power to set him free.”
Strickland, who will turn 62 on Monday, was 18 when he was arrested. Prosecutors say the case was “thin from its inception,” resting almost entirely on the dubious identification of a traumatized shooting victim. Prosecutors said they wouldn’t charge Strickland with any crimes if the same case was before them today.
The killings occurred in 1978 when a group of assailants ransacked a Kansas City home. Larry Ingram, 21; John Walker, 20; and Sherrie Black, 22, were fatally shot. Cynthia Douglas, the only eye witness, was wounded but pretended to be dead.
In an investigation published in September, The Kansas City Star reported that for decades, two men who pleaded guilty in the killings swore Strickland was not with them and two other accomplices during the killings. Douglas later said detectives pressured her into identifying Strickland as the shooter, The Star reported. She tried to recant for years before her death in 2015.
In a letter supporting Strickland’s release, Baker and her chief deputy, Dan Nelson, said the evidence used to convict Strickland as a teenager has since been “eviscerated.”
Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Missouri, Jackson County’s presiding judge, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and members of the team that convicted Strickland four decades ago also now all agree that he deserves to be exonerated.
If Strickland is exonerated, he will have experienced the longest wrongful imprisonment known in Missouri history.