KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A judge ruled that after more than 40 years behind bars, Kevin Strickland will go free.
Judge James Welsh ruled that Strickland’s conviction should be set aside and that Strickland will be immediately released from custody. He was serving his sentence at a prison in Cameron, Missouri.
Strickland was released Tuesday afternoon and spoke to reporters outside the Missouri prison.
The judge also pointed out that there was no physical evidence that connected Strickland to the murders and that he was convinced solely on eyewitness testimony. That eyewitness later recanted her statements and said she misidentified Strickland. Two other men convicted in the murders also testified that Strickland was not part of the crime.
Strickland told reporters after the hearing that he felt “really good” about his chances. “I’d say about 80%” chance of being exonerated, he said.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in closing arguments during the hearing that Strickland was guilty of hanging out with the people who committed the murders, but her review of the case convinced her Strickland’s conviction in 1979 was a horrible mistake.
Strickland, who is now 62, has always maintained he was home watching television on the night of April 25, 1978, when the shootings occurred. In testimony on Monday, he again strongly denied that he was involved in the killings.
The Missouri Attorney General’s office released its own statement on Strickland’s conviction being set aside.
“In this case, we defended the rule of law and the decision that a jury of Mr. Strickland’s peers made after hearing all of the facts in the case. The Court has spoken, no further action will be taken in this matter,” said spokesman Chris Nuelle.