KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When a person is exonerated in the state of Missouri without DNA evidence they are not compensated for their time in prison. A bill that will come before the legislature next year would change that.
Each day, Kevin Strickland’s Gofundme inches towards $2 million, but without a lawsuit none of that money will come directly from the state. Democratic Missouri State Representative LaKeySha Bosley out of St. Louis says she’s working to help the wrongfully convicted with new legislation.
The feeling of freedom is a release after decades of prison. Once they settle into their new life without DNA evidence many are left homeless, penniless, and lost.
“You have no resources. None. You come home to nothing,” Darryl Burton said.
He would know. Burton was incarcerated for nearly 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit. With the help of family and friends he was able to start his life over but it wasn’t an easy road. He now has a masters in divinity and is an associate pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. It’s the largest Methodist congregation in the world which says a lot for how far Burton has come.
He co-founded Miracles of Innocence with Lamonte McIntyre who was also exonerated in 2017. They work to help free innocent people who are still incarcerated and provide them services when they return home.
For the past three years, Bosley introduced legislation aiming to support everyone wrongfully convicted. Not just those who were freed with DNA evidence. She’s refiling legislation again this month and hopes this time will be when it finally becomes a law.
“We know that there are many ways someone can be exonerated either with false confession, witness tampering, perjury, official misconduct, inadequate legal defense, there is a multitude of ways,” Bosley said.
She says about 50 people in Missouri have been exonerated and the minority of them are from DNA evidence. However, all of them are equally innocent. Bosley says some were convicted before DNA evidence existed in it’s modern use.
Representative Patty Lewis said she will support Bosley on her filing and hopes to push it forward. She believes Strickland’s example may help ignite newfound interest in Jefferson City to see the legislation pass.
“I’m looking forward to work With her, as well as your representatives on both sides of the aisle to get this passed this year,” Lewis said.
She believes they will have bi-partisan support. Both woman say they’ve talked to representatives across the isle who are interested in seeing change within the criminal justice system.
“It’s been referred to Committee all three years. And one time I got it to a hearing and the hearing was completed, and we didn’t get any backlash,” Bosley said.
Burton says people who are convicted of crimes are able to get help re-entering society and people who are wrongfully convicted should get the same support and more.
“You were innocent, and you went to prison all those years but now that you’re out it’s on you. We have nothing for you. It’s horrible,” Burton said.
FOX4 spoke with Republican Representative Tony Luetkemeyer over the phone in regards to the upcoming filing but he did not want to comment as he has not been able to read the bill yet. We also reached out to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office who did not return our call or email.
While Missouri waits on possible change Burton said there is a way to help the wrongfully convicted today. MOI helps people in need with legal referrals, housing, job opportunities, education and training, life skills and mentorship, physical and mental health, and transportation.
The nonprofit works through the kindness of others. If you would like to help you can donate online through their website.