Media Advisory: The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today with the attorneys for Kevin Strickland regarding his wrongful conviction and to call for his release from prison. Press conference will be held at the Downtown Courthouse, 10th floor conference room. A zoom feed is available but you will need to register in advance. Due to COVID restrictions, we will allow only media into the conference room. If you want to attend virtually, please register for Zoom; click the below link in advance of press conference: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEkcuygqTwqG9weX4qVV6A0azXGw6UsAqF6
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2021
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, along with the Midwest Innocence Project and international law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, called today for the release of Missouri prison inmate Kevin Strickland, saying he was wrongly convicted 43 years ago in a triple murder in Kansas City.
“All those who have reviewed the evidence in recent months agree -- Kevin Strickland deserves to be exonerated,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. “This is a profound error we must correct now.”
At a press conference today in the Downtown Kansas City Courthouse, Baker will join Strickland’s attorneys in detailing how Strickland’s wrongful conviction has come to light and why they are advocating for Strickland’s release. Earlier today, Tricia Rojo Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project and Robert J. Hoffman of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner filed a petition asking the Missouri Supreme Court to order his immediate release.
On behalf of the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor announced that an Amicus Brief is being filed with the Missouri Supreme Court today in support of Hoffman’s petition, as well as a letter to Hoffman detailing the results of a review by the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. The case against Strickland, the review found, relied greatly on the testimony of a woman who witnessed the murders. The Prosecutor’s Office concluded that the witness, now deceased, sincerely wished (and attempted) to recant her identification of Strickland at trial.
“Keeping him incarcerated now on a jury verdict, where the jury heard none of this convincing exculpatory evidence, serves no conceivably just purpose,” Baker and Chief Deputy Daniel M. Nelson stated in their letter to Strickland’s attorneys.
The witness, Cynthia Douglas, was a young woman in 1978 who was traumatized herself in the triple murder, the letter explained. She witnessed the murders of her three friends and was shot herself on that fateful day. Douglas immediately identified two of the suspects, Vincent Bell and Kilm Adkins. She didn’t name Strickland until the following day and only after her sister’s boyfriend suggested Strickland might be involved. Cynthia made it known she knew she was wrong in naming Strickland as a suspect after Strickland’s trial. That was a mistake she maintained for years until her death.
Strickland has maintained his innocence since 1978. His co-defendants admitted their guilt and they also maintained Strickland did not take part. They even named an alternative suspect.
In April, Prosecutor Baker and her staff met with the primary family members of victims Larry Ingram, Sherrie Black and John Walker. All expressed that they still, decades later, suffered from the trauma related to losing their loved ones. They were surprised by the news that Strickland was not guilty, yet they believed the justice system has an obligation to release anyone wrongly accused. They asked the media be directed to the prosecutor’s office. Baker also met with a member of victim Cynthia Douglas’ family.
For a variety of reasons, including Strickland representing himself on appeal, the full picture of this error of justice was not made clear until recent months. Douglas sent an email to Midwest Innocence Project in February 2009, saying she was seeking to help someone wrongfully accused in 1978. “I was the only witness and things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can,” she wrote.
The prosecutor’s review – initiated after Hoffman contacted the office in late-November 2020 and a Kansas City Star article on Sept. 27, 2020 -- concluded that Ms. Douglas’ email was a true recantation. Three other persons close to her, including her mother and ex-husband, submitted affidavits supporting Douglas’ desire to recant and right the record.
The judge who presided over the trial, as well as the lead prosecutor on the case, Jim Humphrey, are both deceased. Another member of the trial team -- James Bell, now an attorney in private practice --reviewed the new evidence and stated that it indicates that Strickland should be set free. Bell added: “If Jim Humphrey were alive, and was made aware of Cynthia’s efforts to recant, he would be leading the effort to get Kevin Strickland free.”
The presiding judge of the 16th Circuit, J. Dale Youngs, stated that on behalf of the Court he concurred that the conviction should be set aside and he agreed that the evidence shows Strickland’s actual innocence.
For more information, contact:
Director of Communication
Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office
Jean Peters Baker, Prosecutor
Work : (816) 881-3812
Mobile: (816) 674-3954