More Than $1.4 Million Raised to Help Missouri Man Exonerated After 43 Years

Thousands of people have raised over $1.4 million for a Missouri man who was exonerated earlier this week after spending 43 years in prison.

Per the Washington Post, Kevin Strickland was convicted in 1979 for the murders of 20-year-old John Walker, 21-year-old Larry Ingram, and 22-year-old Sherrie Black that took place the year prior. Strickland was sentenced to life imprisonment without the chance of parole for 50 years.

However, after spending over four decades behind bars, a now-62-year-old Strickland was exonerated earlier this week after Judge James Welsh noted a lack of physical evidence to link him to the crime scene. Additionally, family members provided alibis for his whereabouts and the admitted killers said he was not present at the scene of the triple murder.

Additionally, The New York Times adds that Walsh highlighted that the only eyewitness, Cynthia Douglas, later wished to recant her testimony in the case. Douglas was also the only survivor of the attack, to which Walsh said in court: "By all accounts, Douglas was hysterical at the time, suffering from two gunshot wounds and having just witnessed the execution of three friends."
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However, despite being one of the longest-standing wrongful convictions in United States' history, Strickland was not eligible for any compensation from the state of Missouri.

His attorney, Tricia Rojo Bushnell, told the Post: "Missouri is not going to pay Mr. Strickland a dime, but the whole world is going to make sure he’s compensated."

Bushnell was referring to a recent GoFundMe page that was set up in order to help Stickland "establish himself in a home and provide for his basic needs upon his release from prison."

Despite the page aiming for an initial goal of $7,500, more than 23,000 donations have resulted in a current total of more than $1.4 million.

And in a recent update on the page, Bushell - who is also the executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project - wrote: "Thank you all for your support! All funds go directly to Mr. Strickland, who the state of Missouri won't provide a dime to for the 43 years they stole from him."

A year after Strickland's conviction, Douglas had reportedly started to confide in those close to her that she had misidentified Strickland, the Times reports.

In 2009, she contacted the Midwest Innocence Project, writing in an email: "I am seeking info on how to help someone that was wrongfully accused.

"This incident happened back in 1978, I was the only eyewitness and things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can."

Ms. Douglas passed away in 2015.

In Tuesday's ruling, Judge Welsh wrote: "The Court’s confidence in Strickland’s convictions is so undermined that it cannot stand, and the judgment of conviction must be set aside. Absent Douglas’s positive, unequivocal identification of Strickland, there would have been no charge, no trial, and certainly no conviction."

Due to Missouri law, only those exonerated as a result of DNA evidence are eligible for monetary compensation.

Featured image credit: Pexels / Sora Shimazaki

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