As of mid-afternoon on Saturday, a fundraiser for a man who spent 43 years in prison before a judge in Missouri had overturned his conviction in a triple homicide that raised more than $1.4m.
Establishing the Midwest Innocence Project gofundme page Kevin Strickland, 62, is fighting for his release, noting that he will not receive compensation from the state and will need help paying basic living expenses while battling widespread health problems.
Missouri only allows wrongful imprisonment payments to people acquitted through DNA evidence. A retired Missouri Court of Appeals judge, James Welsh, ordered Strickland’s release on Tuesday, finding that the evidence used to convict him had been either redacted or disproved.
Strickland has always said that he was watching TV at home and had nothing to do with the murders that took place in Kansas City in 1978, when he was 18 years old.
The key witness, a survivor of the shooting, tried for years to defer his testimony, saying he was under pressure from the police.
No physical evidence tied Strickland to the crime scene. The marks of the gun used were not his. Family members provided alibis, and two men convicted in the murders of 22-year-old Sherry Black, 21-year-old Larry Ingram and 20-year-old John Walker said Strickland was not present.
After being imprisoned for his entire adult life, Strickland has no savings or ability to show work history for Social Security entitlements.
Leaving the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron this week, he said he was “grateful to God that he drove me through this for 43 years”.
“I’m not necessarily angry,” he told reporters. “That’s a lot. I think I’ve created feelings you all don’t know about yet. Happiness, sadness, fear. I’m trying to figure out how to put them together.”
He said he would like to join efforts to “prevent this from happening to anyone else”.
He said the US criminal justice system “needs to be dismantled and remodeled”.
Tricia Rojo Bushnell, Strickland’s attorney and executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, told the Washington Post that only “a very small minority of people” receive compensation for wrongful convictions in Missouri.
“Most of those who have been acquitted have been acquitted through non-DNA evidence, and most crimes do not involve DNA,” Bushnell said. “So what we see in Missouri is [that] People get home and they are not given anything.”
Midwest Innocence Project establishes fundraiser when cases are acquitted. On Strickland’s page, some donors left statements of encouragement.
“I hope so much care helps you enjoy every day,” wrote one, As reported by the Kansas City Star.
“Even Mississippi and Alabama, at the bottom of the list for education, health care, etc., have wrongful punishment reimbursement,” wrote another. “Shame on Missouri and any other state that is backward.”
Another Giver wrote that she was “trying to imagine being wrongfully convicted when I was 18 and have since spent all my life in prison for a crime I didn’t commit – And then for not getting any compensation from the state that imprisoned me?
“I wish Mr. Strickland the best of luck for the rest of his life.”
A pediatric practice in Kansas City donated $10,000 to one of two charities. The practice’s president, John Bilharz, told the Post: “We thought this would be an important way to show they have support.”