I spent 23 years in a Missouri Level 5 prison for a crime I did not commit. The Missouri attorney general’s office fought against my every appeal for many years, even as the case of my innocence became more and more clear. Even as professors and legal organizations with a credible reputation of discovering innocence joined the fight, there was still opposition from the Missouri AG’s office. If it were left up to current Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, I would still be spending the rest of my life in prison for a crime he knew I am innocent of.
Schmitt has recently made the news repeatedly over his unwillingness to support his own prosecutors’ efforts to free two innocent men from prison. He has, in essence, demonstrated that he and his office oppose truth. This is a problem that not only people like Lamar Johnson and Kevin Strickland suffer from, but all Missourians who rely on Schmitt’s judgment to make the best decisions for all Missourians, not just himself. Let’s take a look at his record.
Schmitt opposed the truth in my very own case, as recently as 2018, refusing to acknowledge the facts of my innocence and opposing most motions filed citing technicalities of law. I was finally exonerated by clear and convincing evidence by a Davis County circuit judge in August 2019.
Schmitt opposed the truth in the case of another innocent Missouri man — Jonathan Irons, who ultimately prevailed despite Schmitt’s attempts to deny him justice. Irons’ conviction was finally thrown out by a Cole County circuit judge in 2020.
Schmitt is currently opposing the truth in the case of Lamar Johnson from St. Louis. This case has made national headlines where Schmitt opposes the glaring facts of the case that boldly demonstrate Lamar Johnson is indeed innocent.
Schmitt is currently opposing the truth in the case of Kevin Strickland of Kansas City, too. This case has also made national headlines, yet Schmitt continues to reveal a concerning pattern of rejecting the experts, the compelling facts of the case and his own prosecutors. In this instance, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Bakers filed a motion to the court asking that Strickland be released.
The lawyers he often opposes are not just your typical criminal defense lawyers. Instead, many are considered wrongful conviction experts. In his most recent opposition to truth, he is not just opposing wrongful conviction experts, but his own local prosecutors on both sides of the state.
Schmitt should have to explain to Missourians why there is now a pattern of him opposing at least four cases of innocence in the state, while two have already gone on to be released. He should also have to explain why he continues to hurt people like Jonathan Irons, Kevin Strickland, Lamar Johnson and myself.
These are the times we the people must carefully examine who we believe ourselves to be, compared to who we really are. What would we like to stand for compared to what we actually stand for? These are the times when we’ve been holding our elected officials accountable when they demonstrate wild and inexcusable behavior. Eric Schmitt has demonstrated just such a pattern of behavior. White or Black, Democrat or Republican, rural or suburban, we don’t pledge our allegiance to one man — particularly when he has repeatedly shown behavior that undermines our confidence in his ability to make sound judge decisions.
We the people must remember that “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” That includes Lamar Johnson and Kevin Strickland.
Ricky Kidd spent 23 years in prison for a 1996 murder that he did not commit.