Supporters have raised more than $1 million for a man who was exonerated earlier this week after serving 43 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Kevin Strickland, now 62, was wrongfully convicted in 1979 in the murders of three people who were killed when four men broke into a home in Kansas City, Missouri, and shot them. Strickland was 18 at the time and has always said he was at home watching TV when it happened.
After his conviction, the key witness, who was the sole survivor of the attack, recanted and said she had been incorrect to identify Strickland as one of the shooters.
Additionally, two other men convicted in the incident said Strickland wasn’t with them, and fingerprints on the shotgun the assailant held didn’t match Strickland’s.
On Tuesday, after a three-day hearing, James Welsh, a retired judge appointed to the case, ruled that Strickland’s conviction could not stand.
“This brings justice — finally — to a man who has tragically suffered so, so greatly as a result of this wrongful conviction,” Jean Peters Baker, a Missouri prosecutor who believed Strickland was innocent and whose efforts led to the hearing this month, said in a statement obtained by The Intercept.
But though he’s now been released, Strickland is not eligible to receive compensation for his decades of wrongful imprisonment from the state of Missouri. State law dictates that people exonerated via DNA evidence can get $50 for each day they were incarcerated after their conviction, but that doesn’t apply to Strickland’s case, according to CNN.
However, the Midwest Innocence Project, a nonprofit that provides legal support to wrongfully convicted people and had worked on Strickland’s case, set up a GoFundMe for him. The account was created over the summer, but gained traction since the news of Strickland’s exoneration this week. As of Friday, the account had tens of thousands of donors and had raised more than $1.1 million.
Strickland told CNN that the first thing he did as a free man was to visit his mother’s grave.
“To know my mother was underneath that dirt and I hadn’t gotten a chance to visit with her in the last years … I revisited those tears that I did when they told me I was guilty of a crime I didn’t commit,” he said.