Missouri gov. says clemency petition from man wrongfully imprisoned for 40 years not ‘priority’

Lawmakers sent Gov. Mike Parson a letter seeking a pardon for Kevin Strickland, a call prosecutors echo.

Republican Missouri Governor Mike Parson said Monday that addressing the clemency petition to release a man imprisoned for over 40 years who prosecutors now maintain is innocent simply isn’t “a priority.” 

“When something like that comes up, we look at those cases, but I don’t know that that necessarily makes it a priority to jump in front of the line,” Parson said during a news conference. “We understand some cases are going to draw more attention through the media than others, but we’re just going to look at those things.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Monday that addressing the clemency petition to release an imprisoned man prosecutors now say is innocent is not a “priority.” (Photo by Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images)

He also added that Kevin Strickland, who is now 62, had been tried “by a jury of his peers” and found guilty, but there was “a lot more information out there.” 

The governor’s office currently has a backlog of about 3,000 clemency requests, according to The Kansas City Star. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle sent Parson a letter asking for a pardon for Strickland, and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has called for his release. 

There is currently a bill approved by the Missouri state legislature that awaits Parson’s signature, one that would give local prosecutors more power in innocence claims, allowing them to bring them before trial courts that would allow innocent prisoners to be released without waiting on the governor. 

Peters Baker said if Parson signs the bill, she will file the motion the first day it is legally allowed to get Strickland released. 

Strickland was convicted of a Kansas City triple murder in April 1978. However, two men who pleaded guilty to the crime swore that Strickland was not with them. The only two eyewitnesses in the case have both recanted and advocated for his release. 

Strickland — who was convicted by an all-white jury, white judge and white prosecutors — has asked Parson for a full pardon, not a sentence commutation.

”Through a full pardon, you have the power not only to correct my wrongful conviction but also to ensure that my innocence is finally recognized,” Strickland wrote.

He added that anything less “would leave an unjust and undeserved stain on my criminal record.”

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