Kevin Strickland left a Missouri prison penniless on Tuesday after serving more than 40 years for a triple murder that he did not commit, but more than 20,000 strangers have donated about $1.3 million to an online fund-raiser to help his re-entry to society.
He was exonerated without DNA evidence, which disqualified him from being compensated by the state, despite spending decades behind bars, his lawyers said.Strickland, 62, said on Friday that the community did not owe him anything for his wrongful imprisonment.
“The courts failed me and that’s who should be trying to make my life a little more comfortable,” he said.“I really do appreciate the donations and contributions they made to try to help me acclimate to society.”
Strickland said the four days back in Kansas City had been overwhelming.
The sprawl of highways was especially dizzying, he said during a phone call while headed to the Independence Centre shopping mall to spend $25 that someone had given him.
The online fund-raiser, organised by the Midwest Innocence Project, was set up by Tricia Rojo Bushnell, one of his lawyers and the project’s executive director.Bushnell said she routinely raised funds for newly released clients but the amount raised for Strickland was a surprise.
Strickland does not yet have a bank account, a phone or a form of government identification.For now, he is staying at a brother’s house.Strickland will receive the full amount of the donations as soon as he has a bank account to transfer it into, Bushnell said.
Strickland was convicted in 1979 of killing three people in Kansas City the year before.The only eyewitness had picked Strickland from a lineup.
Strickland was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years.
One of the two other men who pleaded guilty to the murders maintained that Strickland played no part in the killings, and the sole eyewitness later recanted her testimony.
Strickland said he wanted to leave Missouri and pursue his dream of buy a small piece of land outside of a city“I’ll build a small house, a small bedroom, two- to three-bedroom house, have me some chickens and four to five dogs, a fishing pond somewhere close by, a big fence where nobody can get in,” he said.“Just some alone time, some getaway space.”
New York Times News Service