Kevin Strickland: Thousands of people have raised more than $900K for a man who served 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit

Kevin Strickland, 62, was acquitted Tuesday morning after serving decades at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. Strickland was convicted in 1979 of one count of manslaughter and two counts of second-degree murder in a triple murder. He was given a 50-year life sentence with no chance of parole for a crime he claimed over the years hadn’t been involved.
Senior judge James Welsh dismissed all criminal charges against Strickland. His release makes his incarceration the longest wrongful sentence in Missouri history and one of the longest in the nation, according to The National Registry of Exonerations.
The Midwest Innocence Project has created a GoFundMe account to help Strickland get his life back on track as he is ineligible for aid from the state of Missouri.

In Missouri, according to the Innocence Project, only those acquitted through DNA testing are eligible for $50 a day incarceration after conviction. That was not the case for Strickland.

As of Thursday afternoon, donations for Strickland were over $910,000.

The fund was established over the summer with the goal of raising $7,500, which the fund estimates would be about $175 dollars for each year Strickland spent inappropriately.

Thirty-six states and Washington, DC have laws on the books that provide compensation for freedmen, according to the Innocence Project. The federal standard to reimburse those wrongly convicted is a minimum of $50,000 a year incarceration, plus an additional amount for each year spent on death row.

Adjusting to a new world

Strickland said he learned of his release through a breaking news report that interrupted the soap opera he was watching on Tuesday.

The first thing he did after his release was visit his mother’s grave.

“To know that my mom was covered in that dirt and that I hadn’t had a chance to visit her in years…,” Strickland told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Wednesday.

He first visited his mother's grave after serving 43 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit

His first night out of prison was a restless night, with thoughts of returning to prison keeping him awake, he said on Wednesday.

“I’m used to living in a tight, closed cell where I know exactly what’s going on with me,” he said. “And when I get home and you hear the creaking of the house and the electrical wiring and whatever… I was a little scared. I thought someone was coming for me.’

Convicted as a teenager, acquitted as an adult

Four people were shot in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 25, 1978, resulting in three deaths, according to CNN affiliate KSHB. The lone survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas, who died in 2015, testified in 1978 that Strickland was at the scene of the triple murder.

Douglas suffered a bullet wound and then told police that Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins were two of the perpetrators. But she did not identify Strickland, who she knew, as at the scene until a day later, according to KSHB, after it was suggested that Strickland’s hair matched Douglas’ description of the shooter. Douglas claimed her initial failure to identify him was due to the use of brandy and marijuana, according to KSHB.

He spent years in prison for the rape of author Alice Sebold, the subject of her memoir,

But for the past 30 years, she says she made a mistake and misidentified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas made attempts to free Strickland through the Midwest Innocence Project.

The two attackers she identified at the scene both pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and each had to serve approximately 10 years in prison for the crimes, according to Strickland’s attorney Robert Hoffman.

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