A Missouri prisoner sentenced to 40 years for three counts of murder is innocent. Prosecutors agree.

Kevin Strickland 62, convicted April 25, 1978, of the fatal shooting of Larry Ingram, 21; John Walker, 20; and Sherrie Black, 22, of Kansas City.

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A Kansas City man who has been jailed for more than 40 years for three counts of murder has repeatedly denied any involvement in the case while testifying in court on Monday.

“I had nothing to do with these murders. I was not at all involved in the crime, ”said Kevin Strickland, who has been working for his release since his conviction and was sentenced to life in prison in 1979.

Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and other legal and political leaders say Strickland was wrongly convicted. He said the evidence used to convict him was withdrawn or denied since his trial.

"This is a threefold murder in which three young people were killed," Peters Baker said on Monday. "The tragedy has been made worse, worse by the belief of Kevin Strickland."

The hearing of evidence in the Strickland case comes after months of delays caused by legal proceedings and the withdrawal of hearings largely due to proposals filed by the state attorney general's office. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, of the Republican Senate, said he believed Strickland was guilty of murder.

Strickland's attorneys and the Attorney General's office stated at the opening of statements that statements from Cynthia Douglas, the only survivor of the shooting, identifying Strickland as a shooter would be crucial in determining Strickland's fate. Supporters of Strickland say Douglas withdrew his identity document before he died.

Kevin Strickland in 1978.

Kevin Strickland 1978.Courtesy / Midwest Innocence Project

Andrew Clarke, assistant prosecutor in the Attorney General's office, said there was evidence that Strickland was guilty. She said the recorded calls between Douglas and her husband during his arrest would show that he did not care to help Strickland prove his innocence.

Clarke also said one of Strickland's fingers was found in a used car on the night of the incident. It was led by Vincent Bell, who later pleaded guilty to murder.

Strickland revealed that he used to drive a car Bell, who did not have a driver's license and was surprised that his fingers were not found in the car. Strickland also admitted that he handed Bell the gun shells two to three weeks before his assassination after Bell said he wanted to test the gun he was given. But Strickland insisted he did not know they would be used in three assassinations.

Strickland said he was drinking beer and smoking marijuana before police arrived at his home to investigate a murder case.

During cross-examination on Monday by Deputy Prosecutor Christine Krug, Strickland admitted it was the first time in 43 years that he had said he was hungry at the time.

Strickland, 62, was convicted on April 25, 1978, of the shooting death of Larry Ingram, 21; John Walker, 20; and Sherrie Black, 22, of Kansas City.

Strickland, a black man, saw his trial for the first time in a hanging court where his only Black judge, a woman, sought retrial. After his second trial in 1979, he was convicted by a white judge of one count of robbery and two counts of second murder.

Strickland has been adamant that he was at home watching television and had nothing to do with the 18-year-old massacre.

Two other men convicted of murder later insisted that Strickland was not at the scene, the Kansas City Star reported. And Douglas, the only eyewitness to the killings, had disproved his testimony that Strickland was the shooter.

During the afternoon testimony, Douglas' daughter, mother, sister and colleague all testified that he told them he had identified the wrong shooter and wanted to help free Strickland.

Senoria Strickland said her daughter told police she had pressured him to identify Strickland and she was upset and frustrated that she had chosen the "wrong guy."

During his testimony, Strickland denied allegations that he had given Douglas $ 300 to "shut up," and said he had never visited the city where the killings took place before.

Strickland said he went to the scene at the request of his friend Vincent Bell's sister. He said he co-operated with the police at the scene and later at the police station because "he knew the system was working and I would not be punished for something I did not do."

Strickland, who suffers from spina bifida, looks at evidence from a wheelchair. Before the trial began, he told reporters he was "shocked."

In June, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear Strickland's appeal. Republican Governor Mike Parson has also refused to pardon Strickland, saying he was not sure Strickland was innocent.

The trial is set to begin in August in DeKalb County, where Strickland is under arrest. The trial was canceled after Peters Baker used the country's new law to demand a hearing in Jackson County, where Strickland was convicted. The law allows local prosecutors to appeal their sentence if they believe the defendant did not commit the crime.

The trial scheduled for September 2 was delayed after Schmitt's office sought more time for the court to hear a number of proposals from his office in the case.

Schmitt demanded that all justices of County Jackson County 16 withdraw from presiding over the evidence trial because the presiding judge of the circuit had ruled in his favor that Strickland had been wrongly convicted.