KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A lot has changed since Ricky Kidd was locked up and then released into what seems like a whole new world.
It’s been three and a half weeks since he walked out of the Western Missouri Correctional Center. Now, he’s free for the first time in 23 years after having been wrongfully convicted for a double murder in 1996.
On Sept. 10, FOX4 went with Kidd on a tour of Kansas City, which to him seems like going through a portal to a land in Harry Potter.
“These are all things I have never had the chance to experience,” he said.
Kidd was 22 years old the last time he was in downtown Kansas City, so there was a lot of new things to see, including the Sprint Center.
“When I was in county jail, I could look out this window and get a glimpse of this,” Kidd said of the arena.
Kidd was in awe Tuesday, saying if he didn’t know better, he would think he was in a different city.
“I am amazed. I am amazed,” he said.
Kidd found excitement in seeing parts of Kansas City like KC Live at the Power and Light District.
“Missing out on a city being reborn, but the good news is I am here and I am going to engage the next 23 years fully and joyfully,” Kidd said.
As the tour continued, Kidd’s excitement turned to sadness as he realized what was taken from him.
“We shouldn’t be having this conversation right now,” Kidd said. “I missed it. I missed so much.”
Kidd was looking forward the most to seeing how the 18th and Vine area is developing, particularly the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
“I get to create new memories,” Kidd said. “A lot of people see me upbeat, joyful — and I am. That is a genuine reflection, but sometimes it is sad.”
It was an especially emotional day for Kidd on Tuesday because not only did he see this new world, but it was also his first birthday as a free man in 23 years.
“My birthday was always ‘I’ll be home for my birthday. Don’t worry I will be home this year for my birthday,’” he said.
This year, Kidd got a very special present for his 45th birthday.
“What I have done for my birthday already, I have started a new job today with the Midwest Innocence Project,” he said.
He’s now the community engagement manager, working on fundraisers, volunteer engagement and helping exonerate others who were wrongfully convicted.
“I feel like people need to know that I am the type of people they are leaving behind,” Kidd said. “I get to now do great work for an organization who was solely responsible, or greatly responsible, for my exoneration. I’m paying them back and they are somehow still paying me a check.”
Having a job is a big deal for Kidd. It’s something many exonerees struggle with.
There’s no compensation bill in Missouri. When the wrongly accused walk out of prison, they don’t get money or even as much as an “I’m sorry” from those who put them there.
Kidd said the caring hearts of individuals help people like him build a life, and he’s excited to do the same for others.