June 19, 2021

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Governor of Missouri: The pardon of a 4-decade inmate is not a priority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says addressing Kevin Strickland’s leniency plea isn’t a “priority,” even though prosecutors say Strickland didn’t commit the triple murder that put him behind bars more than four decades ago.

Parson has a backlog of about 3,000 pardon requests, according to the Kansas City Star.

“When something like this happens, we look at those cases, but I don’t know if that necessarily makes it a priority to jump to the forefront,” Parson said at a Monday news conference. “We understand that some cases will attract more media attention than others, but we will only look at those things.”

Parson noted that Strickland, 62, was tried “by a jury of his peers” and found guilty. But he added that he knew there was “a lot more information out there”.

Several state lawmakers on both sides of the corridor signed a letter asking for a pardon for Strickland, who has maintained his innocence since he was convicted of the deaths of three people in April 1978 in Kansas City.

Jackson County Attorney Jean Peters Baker has called for his release. Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Missouri, Jackson County President, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, and members of the team that sentenced Strickland also said he deserves to be exonerated.

The Star reported in September that two men who pleaded guilty to the murders for decades swore that Strickland was not with them and two other accomplices in the shooting. The sole eyewitness also retracted and wanted Strickland’s release.

Strickland asked for leniency on Tuesday, saying he doesn’t want his sentence to be commuted. Anything less than full forgiveness “would leave an unjust and undeserved stain on my criminal record,” he wrote.

“Through complete forgiveness, you have the power not only to correct my misconception, but also to ensure that my innocence is finally recognized,” Strickland wrote.

If Strickland is released, he will not be entitled to state compensation. Under Missouri law, according to the Midwest Innocence Project, the state only compensates inmates who are exonerated via DNA tests. The law would not apply to the Strickland case.

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