“You Can’t Catch Those 43 Years”-He Says As He Tries to Start Life Anew
It’s a little more than two weeks since Kevin Strickland, exonerated prisoner, got his life, or what remains of it, back having been set free from the Western Missouri correctional center where he has spent the last 43 years. Happy as he is with his newly found freedom, he’s however finding adjustment to life outside prison a little disconcerting as every now and then, he still wakes up at his brother’s place at 3.30am, his prison life routine.
I’m waking up anxious to get outside. I want to know and feel light. Three o’clock in the morning, I’m ready. Time to go. I don’t know where I’m going but I know it’s time to go.
Born June 7, 1959, Strickland who was convicted in 1979 for the murders of Sherrie Black, 22, Larry Ingram, 21, and John Walker, 20, during a home Invasion, is officially Missouri’s longest serving inmate. He was convicted for the murders of the trio but in the main, his conviction resulted from the eyewitness testimony of the sole survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas.
But Douglas recanted her testimony in 2009 insisting that her counsel pressured her into implicating the then black 18 year-old Strickland.
Indeed, Strickland, 62, has always maintained, local prosecutors and Kansas City officials now in agreement, that he never did the crime. At last, his freedom came on 23 November after spend more than four decades behind bars.
Until she recanted her testimony, there was practically nothing Strickland could do. A turnaround came his way when the Midwest Innocence Project, in collaboration with Jackson county prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, took up the case.
“You can’t even imagine and you don’t want to. It’s tough to be told when to do things every day. When to lay down. Eat. Sleep. Play. And to know those things are going to repeat day after day after day so long as you keep living – and that it’s not going to change.”
“You’ve just got to go through it. It’s dark. I didn’t check out. You have to face it. Deal with it. I’ve seen several suicides, so that would be an indication their will and strength had been compromised.”
Meanwhile, Strickland is confined to a wheelchair pending when he gets treated over his spinal stenosis. But he has, in many ways, become an example of inequities in criminal justice in the US, particularly in the circumstances of his conviction, there was no physical evidence tieing accused like him to the crime scene. An all-white jury is all it takes and as it was with his came, they came back with the verdict barely after two hours of deliberation.
“They sure didn’t waste any time,” Strickland recslls.
Strickland’s case has also drawn attention to a Missouri law that denies restitution to an exonerated convict unless it results solely from DNA profiling analysis. But state representative, Mark Sharp, has filed a bill to change the state’s restitution law to include people found innocent as the result of an evidentiary method.
It is expected that the proposal would allow eligible people like Strickland to receive as much as $100 per day for every day they spent incarcerated after conviction, or $36,500 a year. It would amount to about $1,569,500, a little shy of the $1,734,370 raised for him by the Innocence Project’s GoFundMe page.
Credit: The Guardian