Over $1.5 million has been donated to a GoFundMe page created for Kevin Strickland — a Black man who spent more than 40 years in a Missouri prison for a triple murder he did not commit. Thousands of supporters have flocked to the page in recent days, boosting the amount significantly after a Missouri Court of Appeals judge ordered Strickland’s immediate release and overturned his conviction on Tuesday (Nov. 23).
According to The New York Times, Strickland currently does not have a bank account, a phone or a government-issued ID. But all that should change soon. Tricia Rojo Bushnell, one of Strickland’s lawyers and the executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, organized the online fundraiser. She told The Times that Strickland will receive the full amount of the donations as soon as he has a bank account. The Midwest Innocence Project also plans to provide the 62-year-old with a financial adviser to help him handle his money.
Raising funds for newly released clients is part of what the Missouri-based nonprofit does but Bushnell told The Times she was surprised by the amount raised for Strickland. “I think for all of us it’s hopeful, right?” she said. “Until the system has changed where the system is failing, the community is stepping in to fix it, to fill the void. It’s pretty amazing.”
Strickland’s lawyers said that since he was exonerated without DNA evidence, he was disqualified from being compensated by the state of Missouri, despite spending well over half of his life behind bars. “The courts failed me and that’s who should be trying to make my life a little more comfortable,” Strickland told The Times a few days after his release. “I really do appreciate the donations and contributions they made to try to help me acclimate to society.”
As Revolt reported, in 1978 Strickland was arrested when he was 18 years old and accused of killing three people in Kansas City. The following year, he was sentenced to life in prison after an all-white jury found him guilty of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder. There was no physical evidence tying Strickland to the crime, but the shooting’s lone survivor, Cynthia Douglas, identified him as one of the gunmen to police. She later said she misidentified Strickland and reached out to the Midwest Innocence Project in an effort to free him before her death in 2015.
Soon, Strickland will be a millionaire and he plans on leaving Missouri and pursuing his dream of buying a small piece of land outside of a city. “I’ll build a small house, a small bedroom, two-to three-bedroom house, have me some chickens and four to five dogs, a fishing pond somewhere close by, a big fence where nobody can get in,” he told The Times. “Just some alone time, some getaway space.”