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Thousands of people have raised more than $1m for a 62-year-old Missouri man who served more than 40 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Kevin Strickland was exonerated on 23 November after serving 42 years imprisoned at Western Missouri Correctional Center following a conviction in 1979 on one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder in a triple homicide when he was 17.
Mr Strickland was sentenced to a 50-year sentence without possibility of parole. He has maintained his innocence.
Missouri Senior Judge James Welsh dismissed all criminal counts against him and ordered his release after determining that evidence used to convict him had since been recanted or disproven, ending the longest wrongful imprisonment in the state and one of the longest prison sentences among the wrongfully convicted in the US, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
Mr Sitrkcland, however, does not qualify for compensation from the state, which only allows for payments to formerly incarcerated people who prove their innocence through DNA testing. He would have otherwise qualified for more than $2.7m.
The Midwest Innocence Project organised a fundraiser for Mr Strickland in June as the organisation fought for his release.
As of 26 November, the fundraiser has collected more than $1m.
Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas announced that Mr Strickland will light the city’s Christmas tree on Friday.
The first thing he did after his release was visit his mother’s grave, he told CNN.
“To know my mother was underneath that dirt and I hadn’t gotten a chance to visit with her in the last years,” he told the network on Wednesday. “I revisited those tears that I did when they told me I was guilty of a crime I didn’t commit.”
Four people were shot, three fatally, in Kansas City, Missouri, on 25 April 1978.
The sole survivor of the shooting who died in2015 testified in 1978 that Mr Strickland was at the scene of the crime, though she did not identify Mr Strickland, whom she knew, and gave two other names as suspects. She did not mention Mr Strickland until it was was suggested to her Mr Strickland’s hair matched her description of the shooter.
There were 129 exonerations in the US in 2020, spending a combined 1,737 years imprisoned, with an average of roughly 13 years per exoneration, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Approximately 30 per cent of wrongful convictions in the registry’s database are linked to mistaken eyewitness identifications.