A man in Missouri has been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted for triple murder, having spent the past 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Kevin Strickland, 62, is finally allowed to walk free after being sentenced back in 1979, having been just 18 when he was arrested.
He previously told The Kansas City Star: "There's no giving those 43 years back to me... I lost my life."
Granting a motion for Strickland's exoneration today (23 November), Judge James Welsh ordered for Strickland's immediate release, saying Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker had 'met her burden of providing clear and convincing evidence that undermines the Court's confidence in the judgment of conviction'.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Strickland has endured the seventh-longest wrongful imprisonment acknowledged in American history - and the longest in Missouri by more than a decade.
He had been accused of being involved in an attack in 1978, which saw four suspects tie up four victims as they ransacked a bungalow.
Three victims were fatally shot - 20-year-old John Walker, 22-year-old Sherri Black and 21-year-old Larry Ingram - while Cynthia Douglas managed to escape after playing dead.
Douglas was able to identify suspects Vincent Bell, 21, and Kilm Adkins, 19, but could not identify the remaining two - one of whom had a brown paper sack over his head.
She described a suspect to her sister's boyfriend, who suggested that the perpetrator may have been Strickland.
Douglas went on to identify him but later recanted her testimony, saying he had been 'wrongfully accused'.
Though Mr. Strickland is free he will receive nothing from the state of Missouri. Please consider donating to his GoFundMe:https://t.co/XwSaw1Xtjx pic.twitter.com/4OcMYbgxXp
- Midwest Innocence Project (@The_MIP) November 23, 2021
Writing to the Midwest Innocence Project, she said: "I was the only eyewitness and things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can."
Judge Welsh concluded that 'no physical evidence implicated Strickland in the triple homicide', adding: "Instead, Strickland was convicted solely on the eyewitness testimony of (Cynthia) Douglas, who subsequently recanted her statements identifying him as one of the four perpetrators."
Baker said in a statement: "To say we're extremely pleased and grateful is an understatement.
"This brings justice - finally - to a man who has tragically suffered so so greatly as a result of this wrongful conviction."
However, Strickland is unlikely to be compensated for the time he spent in prison, as his original conviction and exoneration rely on an eyewitness.
The Midwest Innocence Project has therefore set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his life on the outside. At the time of writing, more than $81,000 (£60,500) has been raised.
"For those that have been wrongfully convicted, the agony of prison life and the complete loss of freedom are only compounded by the feelings of what might have been," the campaign page says.
"Deprived for years of family and friends and the ability to establish oneself professionally, the nightmare does not end upon release. With no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and a criminal record that is rarely cleared despite innocence, the punishment lingers long after innocence has been proven. This is a reality that current client Kevin Strickland could soon be facing."
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