A Missouri man imprisoned more than 20 years for a double murder is innocent and should either be released or retried, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Ricky Kidd, now 44, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the February 1996 deaths of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges in Kansas City. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Court records show that Kidd told authorities he was with his girlfriend at the time of the killings, and that eyewitnesses who testified against him later recanted.
DeKalb County Judge Daren L. Adkins' ruling cited "clear and convincing" evidence that Kidd was innocent. Adkins ordered the state to release Kidd unless he is retried within 30 days.
Chris Nuelle, spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said the office is reviewing the decision before choosing what to do next. The office, led by then-Attorney General Jay Nixon, handled the original prosecution. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her office also is reviewing the case.
"Our obligation here, as with every case, is to seek the truth," Baker said in a statement.
Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project and Kidd's attorney, said she was ecstatic. But she said the case dragged on far too long given the overwhelming evidence of Kidd's innocence.
"If anything, Ricky's case shows just how hard it is to correct an injustice," Bushnell said. "It shouldn't take 20 years to bring a man home. Ricky's case is solved. We know who committed this crime."
The killings happened in broad daylight on Feb. 6, 1996.
A police officer who arrived at Bryant's home found his 4-year-old daughter in the garage crying, still on the phone with a 911 operator. Bryant was lying in a pool of blood in the snow in his front yard. Police then found Bridges' body in Bryant's basement with his feet, hands and mouth bound with duct tape. He had been shot twice in the back of the head.
Kidd and Marcus Merrill were convicted, while only Merrill confessed. Adkins' order said evidence pointed to Merrill and two other men as the real killers.