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

Kevin Strickland, 62, was acquitted Tuesday morning after spending decades in a West Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. Strickland was convicted in 1979 of premeditated murder and two counts of second-degree murder in a triple murder. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole for a crime in which he asserted over the years that he did not participate.
Chief Justice James Welch dismissed all criminal charges against Strickland. His release makes his incarceration the longest unlawful prison in Missouri history and one of the longest in the country, according to the National Registry of Exoneration.
The Midwest Innocence Project has created a GoFundMe account to help Strickland restart his life, as he is ineligible for assistance from the state of Missouri.

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

As of early Thursday afternoon, donations to Strickland had topped $910,000.

The fund was set up over the summer with the goal of raising $7,500, which the fund says will amount to roughly $175 for each year Strickland serves his wrongful conviction.

Thirty-six states, and Washington, D.C., have laws on the books that provide compensation to exculpators, according to the Innocence Project. The federal standard for compensation for those wrongfully convicted is a minimum of $50,000 a year in prison, plus an additional amount for each year spent on death row.

Adapting to a new world

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

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

“To find out that my mother was under that dirt and I haven’t had a chance to visit her in recent years… I reconsidered those tears I did when they told me I was guilty of a crime I didn’t commit,” Strickland told CNN anchor Brianna Keller Wednesday.

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

On Wednesday, he said his first night out of prison was turbulent, as thoughts of returning to prison, among other things, kept him awake.

“I used to live in a close and confined cell where I knew exactly what was going on there with me,” he said. “And when I’m in the house and you hear the house creaking and the electrical wires and whatever…I was kinda scared. I thought someone was coming to get me.”

Convicted as a teenager, acquitted as an adult

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

Douglas sustained a gunshot wound and then told police that Vincent Peale and Kellen Adkins were two of the perpetrators. But she did not identify Strickland, who she knew, as being at the scene until a day later, according to the 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 cognac and marijuana, according to the KSHB.

He spent years in prison for the rape of author Alice Siebold, the subject of her memoirs

But for the past 30 years, she’s been saying she made a mistake and misidentified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas made efforts to free Strickland through the Midwest Patent Project.

The two attackers you recognized at the scene both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and ended up spending about 10 years in prison for the crimes, according to Strickland’s attorney, Robert Hoffman.

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