JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Republican government of Missouri, Mike Parson, says it is not a “priority” to address the request for mercy for a man who has been behind bars for a triple murder for more than four decades, although prosecutors say he did not commit a crime.
Parson noted that Kevin Strickland, 62, was tried “by a jury among his peers” and found guilty. But he added that he knew there was “a lot more information out there”.
Parson has a backlog of approx. 3,000 requests for forgiveness, the Kansas City Star reported. He issued almost no pardons before his re-election in 2020, but has since begun issuing a group of pardons monthly.
“When something like this comes up, we look at these cases, but I do not know that it necessarily makes it a priority to jump in front of the line,”
Several state legislators from both sides of the aisle signed a letter seeking pardon for Strickland, who has maintained his innocence since being convicted in April 1978 of killing three people in Kansas City.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has called for his release. Federal prosecutors in the western district of Missouri, Jackson County presiding judge, Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas and members of the team that convicted Strickland have also said he should be released.
A bill passed this year awaiting Parson’s signature will give local prosecutors more power in such cases by allowing innocence lawsuits to be filed when a prosecutor believes a prisoner is innocent. Baker has said that if the governor signs the bill, she will file a decision on the first day it is legally allowed to have Strickland released.
The Star reported in September that two men who pleaded guilty to the killings for decades swore that Strickland was not with them and two other accomplices during the shooting. The only eyewitness also withdrew and would have released Strickland.
In a petition filed with the Missouri Supreme Court in May, defense attorneys also noted that prosecutors removed the only four black potential jurors from the trial for Strickland, which is black.
Due to the prosecution’s “racially motivated” strikes, Strickland’s fate was decided by an all – white jury during a trial overseen by a white judge with white lawyers, Star reported.
The state Supreme Court refused to consider Strickland’s case without giving a reason.
Strickland applied for compensation Tuesday, saying he does not want his sentence to be reversed. Anything less than full pardon “would leave an unjust and undeserved stain on my criminal record,” he wrote.
“Through full pardon, you have the power not only to correct my wrongful convictions, but also to ensure that my innocence is finally recognized,” Strickland wrote.
If Strickland is released, he is not eligible for state compensation. Missouri only compensates inmates who are exempt through DNA evidence, according to the Midwest Innocence Project.