LAWRENCE, Kan. — Protesters are calling for a Douglas County attorney to lose her job.
That lawyer was part of the team responsible for convicting Ricky Kidd, who was just freed after 23 years behind bars. The case against him has since been dismissed.
Amy McGowan is currently a senior assistant district attorney with the Douglas County District Attorney’s office. Protesters said her long history trying cases is riddled with trouble, and that Ricky Kidd’s release is just further proof of that.
“What do we want? Amy gone! When do we want it? Now!” protesters said Monday.
A court order last month paved the way for Ricky Kidd’s freedom. A judge found prosecutors from the original trial, including McGowan, withheld evidence and relied on shaky witness testimony. There was also no physical evidence tying Kidd to the murders for which he was convicted.
“How many more other cases has Amy McGowan done this in?” said Latahra Smith, director of KC Freedom Project.
The Kansas Supreme Court has previously vacated a sentence for one of McGowan’s cases in Lawrence and has pointed to errors and improper comments by her in other cases.
The KC Freedom Project has long advocated for McGowan to be fired from her current role in the Douglas County DA’s office and believes Kidd’s release adds fuel to the fire.
“She needs to be disciplined, and we also want her disbarred,” Smith said.
“We want to stand with organizations such as this and certainly work to see those responsible for those wrongful convictions are held accountable and are no longer able perpetrate that kind of wrongdoing on others,” said Kyra Storms, advisory ambassador with Mothers of Incarcerated Sons & Daughters.
Kidd’s case is also giving families of others prosecuted under McGowan hope that, one day, their loved ones will be freed.
“It’s bittersweet to see all them being released or exonerated. You just want to be next,” said Evelyn Case, mother of Byron Case, who was convicted of a 1997 murder.
Last year, McGowan was taken off prosecuting active cases and re-assigned as a charging attorney.
The Douglas County district attorney issued the following statement in response to the protesters.
“Ms. Swain is a defense attorney that will do anything to divert attention away from the guilt of her clients. Mr. Rontarus Washington, Jr.*, whose first-degree-murder case is currently being tried before a Douglas County jury, was previously represented by Ms. Swain. Mr. Washington’s current defense attorney is her prior law partner.
“I fear today’s events may be a direct attempt to influence the jury. It is a tactic that has been used before. Past protests during a jury trial in Wichita were associated with a Swain case.
“Regarding Ms. McGowan, the criticism being leveled against her is for a case she handled over 20 years ago. While she did make errors in that case, the case was overturned primarily because the main witness recanted. False and grossly misleading rumors are being spread that Ms. McGowan was ‘found guilty,’ ‘convicted,’ and ‘disciplined.’ Ms. McGowan has never been convicted nor disciplined by the Missouri Court System or the Kansas Supreme Court.
“The District Attorney’s Office will make no further comment on this matter.”