Prosecutors call for innocent man’s release, but existing law prevents it

Kevin Strickland, imprisoned for 43 years for a crime the admitted killers and the key witness say he didn’t commit, has maintained his innocence since he was 18.
14:08 | 06/11/21

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Transcript for Prosecutors call for innocent man’s release, but existing law prevents it
Earlier this week Lindsay traveled to a Missouri jail to interview a man named Kevin Strickland. He's in jail for 43 years scoring triple murder he has consistently said he did in duke. The local prosecutor's office that originally convicted. Now agree yet Kevin is still in jail the State Supreme Court refuses to hear his case the governor so far refuses to pardon him and Kevin continues to lose the valuable time with the family she has lost. Decades being wet how could this happen blown our Lindsey Davis brings us this ABC news exclusive. We met Kevin Strickland on his 62 birthday. Let me start by saying happy birthday to any thoughts in particular. On this day with regard to to spending another day another year here. I was determined. Spin this very day. I wake. Songs I could. You know. Never know it won't be the last want. This is the 43 birthday he spent behind bars. I would like to get a sense of what it does to someone would be behind bars reported three years the government destroyed and. What he calls his destruction he's not just the resultant decades in prison. It's decades in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit and in fact the same prosecutor's office that tried him for in 1978 triple murder has since determined and he's innocent he sits mr. Strickland I am profoundly sorry. For the harm her and that has come to you. That was more than a month ago and again this year mr. Strickland six what he calls preparing for the grave. God turns 62 today. I just don't feel I got I'd. Lot of time left I'm experienced a couple audit tax and got our good Christian. My ability to stand his. Diminished and yet people are now for standing up for Strickland who is now wheelchair bound. The midwest innocence project took on his case three years ago. I think. Here when there's not a question of innocence and where the prosecutor and other authority figures agreeing that he should come home I would certainly hope that. Our elected officials would give that are really hard and quick look. More than a dozen state lawmakers are now calling on Missouri governor Mike parson took part in Strickland. Among them the Republican chair of the State's house committee that oversees their prison system. So yeah we've gotten to this point I'm just curious why mr. Strickland is still behind bars. Laurie that's a hard. And that's a hard reality. And he gave the only thing I can tell you about that and slightly in defense of this system is that he believes in finality. Then finality came for Kevin Strickland in 1979. Following his arrest a year earlier for the gruesome triple homicide of Larry Ingram John Walker and Cherie black police arriving at this Kansas City home found bloodstained sheets trash covered floors concerned neighbors looking investigators in horror. That night is seared endanger anyone's memory. April 2 point six in 1978930. PM it was a Tuesday. Remember what you are done. Yes I know exactly what I was doing. I was their home I was a gold watch and three's company. And all in all the telephone. Relatives confirmed his alibi at the time so at what point do police come to you and start accusing you of this triple murder. The next morning. And when you are thing came this is this going to be having. That crime shook the local community. While Strickland was in custody charged with the murders two other suspects were killed Atkins and Vincent del were on the run. Police found Strickland fingerprint on Bell's car which Strickland says he had driven on multiple occasions as the men grew up together. He also says he was confident Cynthia Douglas the only surviving eyewitness knew him and would know he was not involved. So did Douglas then points you out as being one of the shooter right. Did disbelief total disbelief so then you have a trial. No part of you thought you're gonna end up getting nowhere had convicted and the system works and so you thought it works. That it'll make mistakes like this this is a capital chores. This is a big deal they don't make mistakes and grim news Rome worst looting. His first trial ended in a hung jury lone black juror the only pulled out what are the prosecutor of the times you remember what he says I never forget it. You come over to the table I'm sitting there antiterrorism. Attorney he said. I'll make sure this doesn't happen next time. And so what that meant is at the second trial. The prosecutor used every one of what's his called peremptory strikes the prosecutors allowed to just strike people bowl site targeted strike people without giving a reason he's every one of his peremptory strikes to strike the remaining black jurors. From the pool. And mr. Strickland was convicted by men all white jury and. C a killer race played a role in us away. Hello in this second trial Strickland says he was not given the presumption of innocence the reporter whose story brought Strickland case of the prosecutor's attention. Her co conversation he had with one of the members of that jury. She said the only detail she could remember from the trial was that this district whom looked in his driver's place photo like and a bad guy. But that in court he looked like her next door neighbor know that he was wearing nice clothes. What was it like hearing a guilty when your in the courtroom as a teenager. For something that you maintain it and did I didn't Rocca cried advanced on me. So there's not coming out of my nose I mean. This is this is unbelievable. Both bell and adkins ultimately admitted to the murders and cleared Strickland in sworn confessions. The original prosecutor who is now deceased never looked further into those claims of Strickland in a sense. The current prosecutor. Who had nothing to do with this case recently said. It is important to recognize when the system has made months. And what we did it in this case was found does that recognition. Dead you've been done wrong. Make it any better. Yes come from her yes because it. She did had say there. In February of 2009. An unexpected email that would ultimately have major implications. From Cynthia Douglas to the midwest innocence project with the subject wrongfully charged. I'm seeking info on how to help someone that was wrongfully accused 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. Didn't most important piece of evidence was reaching education. Other witness. She told her now ex husband that. Get the police told girl shindig was picked Strickland and is to be over. Cynthia Douglas passed away in two downs in fifteen ABC news reached out to the Kansas city police department. They deferred comment to the prosecutor's office. We remain hopeful today I think you're gonna get out this year more so now than ever. But just last week the Missouri Supreme Court denied a petition to free him something his lawyer calls a procedural barrier. So we don't know why the Missouri Supreme Court denied. They don't have to give an explanation it's just rubber stamped denied that set that's right it was it is simply denied and no explanation was given. Also last week of governor Parsons office announced the names of 36 pardons Kevin Strickland was not one of them. It's. A little spaces and I don't pollution and its right to work. Just jump from Ohio she's been trial. Who didn't Drew Peterson found guilty. Kevin Strickland has served more than 151000. Days behind bars. If exonerated she will be one of the longest wrongful imprisonment in US history. Let's just call it what is this is wrong and every when it works in his system must find a way. She do the right thing the right thing is getting mr. stringer Clinton out so. One of those people who could do that the governor. He just compiled a list announced 36 names of people he's gonna parting you get out of jail free card you get out of jail free card. But not for you mr. Strickland again trying to just help me understand. Why this is so difficult. I don't get means an apple and I don't think it means that. I I don't I don't know the answer I don't know why let's say she does get out. Does he get more than half an apology. In his state Missouri though. Under Missouri law and those who have been exonerated. I'm do not did compensation. And other. Wrong. But here in the show me state of Missouri it's unclear just what else mr. Strickland wouldn't have to show in order to prove his innocence. According to injustice watch for decades the State's attorney general's office has fought nearly every wrongful conviction case. That you only want to be. Pardon or exonerated that a commutation of your sentence would not be enough wise I don't know. This kind of say in that gated that we do you feel like a surgeon that I had no I didn't do it. No. No why did well how does it feel to know that the two people who admit. That they were responsible for that crime. Bell and actions ever served their time certain about ten. Here's each they did it they said they did it you say even doing here is said. PubSub. The fielder. Who. I don't I don't know what what time of the put on that I mean. Unbelievable I mean I don't know how could somebody admitted to doing it. Come in go out and I denied from the store announced do you. He can keep taking me back to Phillips. And that really can't put on them and where else feeling more. I'm got to know. One thing he does feel he's the bird in some sense of loss and childhood home now just an empty line. We had a nice Villa. The rest doll house here we've done. Two guard who arrived his brother who's always maintained that Strickland was home on the night of those murders tells us their mother may not have much time left. One of the things it Kevin speaks about. Just. Obsessively. Instead he would like to see my mother before she's gone. It does look like that may happen. I don't really that my mother may be with those more than one or two years or longer. I really hate it on this down my daughter growing up called somebody else today. This is heartbreaking it's a what do you do how to use start over your life at 62. You know. I I kind of jokingly talked about recently with a friend a man I guess I give me. Called wooden box. Get up under the bridge somewhere. Is that really excited yes stars from film be what it would do I mean. I mean if they would still be ruled out that it take to share. I had to crawl out front door I have nothing what does justice look like. What does justice. That's a telephone. I don't know we'll have a seeded fifth. What's your next step at this point we took that petition that was filed in Missouri Supreme Court. And we filed that same petition now in the Circuit Court in DeKalb County which is in the county where he is being held in prison they have asked the attorney general to respond and to make known their position. In July another avenue east senate bill 63. The Missouri legislature just passed a bill senate bill 53 which allows a prosecutor. To file a motion for new trial. To overturn wrongful conviction or so if dialogue goes into effect. It would go into effect on August 28 and at that point the prosecutor would have the power to file a motion for new trial to overturn mr. shook once conviction. That bill is still sitting on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. Any arrests I don't. And you can dream of being able to do. I want go to the ocean. You know I've never been on a beach no I'm not even a manly beach. I want going green fields where you can see the water and received sand and water and I want to go out for an ocean where you can see anyway. Any direction. Not just go out there but needed more. Warfield Powell. God provisional for the war. We reached out to both Missouri's governor and the State's attorney general repeatedly. Both declined our request for comment incredible reporting there by our Lindsey Davis.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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