On Tuesday, 62-year-old Kevin Strickland was released from prison. He served 42 years after being exonerated - one of the longest-standing wrongful convictions in the history of the United States.
You would think Strickland would get some kind of financial compensation for all of the years he spent behind bars but Missouri law said that he would get nothing. So a GoFundMe was set up to help Strickland as he re-enters the world as a free man.
Kevin was released after a judge ruled that his conviction be tossed. He had been sentenced to for the murder of three people in 1978. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crimes, his family members provided alibis, and the admitted killers even said he was not at the scene. The case against him was based on one witness who even tried to recant their testimony later.
Strickland, who was jailed as a teenager, is basically penniless after leaving jail since he hadn't built up any savings and wasn't eligible for Social Security since he had no work history. The state of Missouri only offers compensation if a case is overturned due to DNA evidence, which wasn't what got Strickland's sentence overturned.
Kevin's attorney Tricia Rojo Bushnell set up a GoFundMe, which she does for all of her clients who have their sentences overturned. Since setting it up in June, over $1 million has been raised for Strickland. Most of the donations have been relatively small, but from over 19,000 different backers.
"For us and for Mr. Strickland, what we see is an entire community — or entire world — that recognizes the harms that wrongful convictions cause and that there needs to be some sort of compensation," says Bushnell.
Kevin was able to spend time with his loved ones for Thanksgiving. He will receive all of the money from the GoFundMe and Bushnell has set him up with a financial manager to help him out but stresses it is ultimately up to him to decide what he wants to do with the money.
Strickland uses a wheelchair and is dealing with some physical problems and will need to be able to pay for his medical needs.
"He’s 62 years old with physical problems. He’s not going to be able to work in the way that many other folks coming home would. This has got to be something to sustain him," Bushnell added.
Ultimately, as we celebrate a wrong being made right, it's hard not to feel bad for Mr. Strickland.
One donor on the GoFundMe page writes, "Nothing will bring back the 43 years that were stolen from you. However, I want you to know that after seeing so much hate in the world day after day, it has brought me to tears to see the love that is being shown to you."
Source: Washington Post