An exonerated Missouri man who was released from prison after 43 years isn't eligible for compensation from the state. Donors have now raised over $1.4 million on GoFundMe.

An exonerated Missouri man who was released from prison after 43 years isn't eligible for compensation from the state. Donors have now raised over $1.4 million on GoFundMe.
Kevin Strickland was released from the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo., on November 23, 2021. Strickland spent 43 years in prison for a wrongful incarceration until a judge vacated his conviction for a 1978 triple murder.Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • Kevin Strickland was released from prison on Tuesday after spending 43 years incarcerated for a crime that he did not commit.
  • Strickland was exonerated without DNA evidence, which disqualified him from compensation from the state under Missouri law.

Kevin Strickland left a Missouri prison on Tuesday after being exonerated in a 1978 triple murder, but under Missouri law, he was ineligible for compensation from the state, despite spending 43 years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit.

However, donations have been pouring in from supporters after the Midwest Innocence Project set up a GoFundMe campaign to help Strickland — who was taken into custody when he was just 18 years old — begin a new life.

As of Saturday afternoon, the campaign had raised over $1.4 million from 25,000 donations.

Tricia Rojo Bushnell, the attorney representing Strickland and the executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, told The Washington Post on Friday that individuals from around the globe have sought to aid her client.

Strickland does not have retirement savings or a work history to obtain Social Security benefits as a result of his wrongful conviction, and Missouri only permits compensation from the state if an individual's innocence is proven as a result of DNA testing.


"It's a very small minority of people who receive that," Bushnell told the newspaper. "The vast majority of folks who are exonerated are exonerated through non-DNA evidence and the vast majority of crimes do not involve DNA at all. So what we see in Missouri is folks get home and they are provided nothing."

"He's 62 years old with physical problems. He's not going to be able to work in the way that many other folks coming home would. This has got to be something to sustain him," she added.

Strickland was released from jail after Judge James Welsh ruled that the conviction should be vacated, as no physical evidence linked him to the crime.

"Under these unique circumstances, the Court's confidence in Strickland's convictions is so undermined that it cannot stand, and the judgment of conviction must be set aside," the judge wrote in ordering Strickland's immediate release, according to The Associated Press.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who supported Strickland's exoneration, swiftly moved to dismiss the criminal charges against him in order to facilitate the release.


However, despite the concerted push for Strickland's release after the core testimony unraveled, two of the state's top officeholders offered a different view of the case.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who in June said that a pardon for Strickland was not a "priority," as there were other clemency cases that needed to be reviewed, tweeted a basic statement about the ruling.

"The Court has made its decision, we respect the decision, and the Department of Corrections will proceed with Mr. Strickland's release immediately," he wrote.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is running in the 2022 Republican primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt, previously maintained that Strickland was guilty of the crimes.

"In this case, we defended the rule of law and the decision that a jury of Mr. Strickland's peers made after hearing all of the facts in the case," a Schmitt spokesman said in a statement. "The Court has spoken, no further action will be taken in this matter."


Despite family members presenting alibis for Strickland, along with one of the admitted killers stating that Strickland was not at the scene when the three victims — Sherrie Black, 22; Larry Ingram, 21; and John Walker, 20 — were murdered, he was still convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years.

The case had previously been constructed around the testimony of a witness who had recanted her testimony and has since died, according to The Associated Press.

Strickland had always maintained his innocence and told a group of reporters that he learned of the court's decision while watching television, with inmates cheering at the news of his impending release.

"I'm not necessarily angry. It's a lot. I think I've created emotions that you all don't know about just yet. Joy, sorrow, fear. I am trying to figure out how to put them together," he told reporters as he left the Western Missouri Correctional Center.

After Strickland's release, the first thing he did was visit his mother's grave.