- Kevin Strickland was released after 43 years in a Missouri prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
- Experts said his release follows several cases of injustices in the legal system being reviewed.
- Analysts say their exonerations are a major momentum swing in the fight for racial justice.
After nearly 43 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, a judge in Jackson County, Missouri has granted Kevin Strickland immediate release.
Strickland now, 62, is one of the longest serving wrongful convictions in US history and the longest serving by over a decade in Missouri.
At the age of 18, Strickland was wrongfully convicted of killing three people in 1978.
“There’s no giving those 43 years back to me,” Strickland told The Kansas City Star. “I lost my life.”
Strickland’s release follows several high-profile cases of injustices in the legal system at the expense of Black communities being reviewed years, sometimes decades, later.
Near Orlando, Florida, the Groveland four were exonerated last week for the wrongful conviction of the 1949 rape of a white girl. The Lake County District Attorney’s office found prosecutorial misconduct and the fabrication of evidence at the time of the trial.
Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas — three adults and one minor at the time and now all deceased —were convicted of the 1949 rape of Norma Padgett.
—North Lake Tea Party (#OustCommies) (@northlaketea) November 22, 2021
State Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat, said while the exoneration does not “fix the racial injustice that is so pervasive in our criminal justice system,” the motion gave the family closure.
They were cleared of all charges on November 22nd.
And last week, two of the three men convicted of killing Malcolm X, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, were exonerated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
The DA reopened the murder investigation in 2019 after uncovering that the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the New York Police Department withheld evidence – including the presence of undercover police officers at his assassination.
Aziz is now 83 and Islam died in 2009. Malcolm X was killed on February 21,1965.
Historian and legal expert, Peniel E. Joseph tied this recent slew of exonerations, particularly in Mr. Aziz and Mr. lslam’s cases, to a larger push since the racial justice protest last summer to reconcile the racist history in the US criminal justice system.
“Their exonerations join a spate of recent events that illustrate how America’s racial history is being rewritten and how the past continues to inform the present. ” Joseph wrote in a column.
In the Jim-Crow time period, it was not uncommon for Black men to be lynched by white mobs if they were accused of committing a crime.
In the case of The Groveland four, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall led an all white-mob into town, shooting Thomas more than 400 times, killing him.
Willis in 1951 shot and killed Shepard when he was being transported in police custody. Irvin died in 1969 shortly after receiving parole. Greenlee received parole in 1962 and died in 2012.
“I would not hate, but I will love and embrace all of those who did not know at the time that my father was a caring and loving and compassionate person that did not rape anybody,” Carol Greenlee, the daughter of Charles Greenlee, said at a press conference Monday morning following the court hearing.
“I stand here today to say thank you,” she added.
Strickland won’t be able to seek monetary compensation for his wrongful conviction due to Missouri wrongful conviction compensation law which only allows formerly incarcerated people to prove their innocence through a DNA statue.
In response, supports have raised more than $US1.6 ($AU2) million in support for his new life.
Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam’s family have not publically said if they will file a lawsuit against Manhattan County for their wrongful conviction. According to Reuters, however,the family could seek up to one million dollars for every year they were wrongfully imprisoned.
Whether these families take the next step to seek monetary restoration, legal analysts see their exonerations as a larger momentum swing in the fight for racial justice.