Ricky Kidd cautiously optimistic that former prison mate, Kevin Strickland, could be released

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s a new push to release a man who Jackson County prosecutors say has been wrongfully convicted for more than 40 years.

Kevin Strickland was 18 years old when he was accused of murder at a Kansas City home. He’s spent the last 43 years in prison.

Ricky Kidd also spent 23 years in Western Missouri Corrections Center for a crime he didn’t commit. He was exonerated and released in 2019. Kidd now works as community engagement director at Midwest Innocence Project and runs his own organization called “I Am Resilience.” 

“We was in a place that was built for the guilty despite being innocent,” Kidd said. “That’s where we connected.” 

Kidd was locked up with Strickland, who has been in prison since 1978. An all-white jury found Strickland guilty of capital murder in the deaths of three people at a home on Benton Avenue. 

But in a rare move, Jackson County prosecutors announced this week that Strickland was innocent with a solid alibi. Prosecutors say the primary witness that paved the way for Strickland’s conviction recanted her testimony back in 2009.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said he should be freed immediately. 

“I believe Kevin is cautiously optimistic right now. I think he’s in a much better mental space than he was when I left him. I think he’s in a much better mental space a week before the announcement,” Kidd said. “But still, we have to be careful because if it was Jean Peters Baker’s decision, and her decision alone, Kevin will be joining me in this interview right now.” 

Instead of a swift release, Strickland’s potential freedom is now in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court. Lawyers with the Midwest Innocence Project have filed the paperwork asking the court to review Strickland’s case given the new evidence about the witness.

“The innocent can get caught in a quagmire, sort of speak, and still end up languishing in prison, despite the good news of a prosecutor saying that you deserve to be free,” Kidd said. 

Another option for freedom, Gov. Mike Parson could pardon Strickland.

FOX4 reached out to the governor’s office, and a spokesperson said the governor was aware of Strickland’s case, but would not answer whether he would issue a pardon. 

“We’ve seen in the past, it’s been helpful to maybe contact the Governor’s office and say, hey, we think this is the right thing, or the Jean Peters Baker has done the right thing. And ask would you be willing to follow suit and let this innocent man go,” Kidd said. 

Data from the Midwest Innocence Project estimates that between 2-5% of all people incarcerated in America are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, with some estimates reaching up to 7%. This means hundreds of thousands of individuals are facing similar dilemmas as Strickland. 

Right now, there’s no timeline on when Strickland’s case will be heard before the Missouri Supreme Court. 

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