Update (Nov. 29, 2021): A GoFundMe account has raked in over $1.6 million for Kevin Strickland, the Missouri native who was wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years for a triple killing.
According to The Philadelphia Tribune, the Midwest Innocence Project started the fundraiser account to cover his living expenses after a judge overturned Strickland’s sentence on Nov. 23, adding that Strickland would not be compensated by the state for his time spent behind bars. Missouri only compensates those exonerated of crimes through DNA evidence.
Strickland was convicted for a crime that took place in 1978 when he was just 18 years old. He has maintained his innocence and says he was at home watching television when the crime took place. Judge James Welsh declared Strickland innocent after the evidence used to convict him was either recanted or disproved.
Original (Nov. 24, 2021): Kevin Strickland, a 62-year-old Black man who was exonerated on Tuesday after spending more than 42 years in prison for a killing he didn't commit, will not receive compensation despite the wrongful conviction. Missouri judge James Welsh ordered the release of Strickland, who will rely on funds raised by the Midwest Innocence Project after the court denied his compensation, The Kansas City Star reports.
Missouri’s law, according to the newspaper, only allows for payments to prisoners who prove their innocence through DNA evidence. In Strickland's case, a woman named Cynthia Douglas provided the key testimony. Douglas, who was the lone survivor when four people were shot in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1978, said she falsely identified Strickland as one of the shooters after police pressured her during the investigation.
Before she died in 2015, Douglas documented her testimony in various places and told the story to multiple people, ABC 11 reports. She also tried to free the convicted man through the Midwest Innocence Project, according to CNN.
In addition to being denied compensation, Strickland will not receive help with counseling, housing or work. He is also denied from getting a compensation package for social services.
Speaking with ABC News earlier this year, the 62-year-old said he might use a cardboard box to “get up under a bridge somewhere.” He also said they will take away the wheelchair he is now using.
“I mean, what do I have?” he said. “If they would tell me to roll out now, they’d take this chair. I’d have to crawl out of the front door. I have nothing; I have nothing.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Missouri should broaden its compensation law and provide assistance to exonerees.
“Especially when the system knows it made the mistake,” Baker said, according to the Star.
Many states follow the federal standard for compensation, which requires $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment. In Missouri, those who are eligible for compensation can only receive a maximum of $36,500 a year. According to legal experts, exonerees would have to wait years before receiving the full compensation.
“Suppose you were exonerated after 20 years in prison. Why should you have to wait another 20 years before receiving the full compensation that Missouri provides?” Jon Eldan, founder of a nonprofit group After Innocence, said, according to the Star. “And if you do not live that long, why should the state keep the money you were promised?”
If Strickland qualified for compensation, he would be 104 years old before receiving the full payment. Strickland's confinement is the longest wrongful imprisonment in Missouri history. It's also one of the longest in the nation.