Kevin Strickland answers questions during an evidentiary hearing regarding his innocence on, November 8, 2021 in Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City. Image Credit: AP

Washington: A judge in the midwestern US state of Missouri ordered the immediate release on Tuesday of a Black man who spent 43 years in prison for a triple murder he did not commit.

Kevin Strickland, 62, was convicted by an all-white jury in 1979 for the murders in Kansas City, Missouri, and sentenced to life in prison.

Strickland steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office agreed earlier this year that he was wrongly convicted.

After reviewing the case, Judge James Welsh ordered Strickland’s immediate release on Tuesday.

Strickland’s exoneration after 43 years behind bars makes him one of the longest-serving inmates in the United States to have been wrongfully convicted, according to the National Registry of Exonerations maintained by several US law schools.

Strickland was convicted after a second trial - the first ended in a mistrial - of the April 25, 1978 murders of three people who were tied up and shot.

The only survivor, Cynthia Douglas, identified Strickland as one of the four men who carried out the shooting but later recanted her testimony.

Two of the men convicted of the murders said Strickland was not involved and identified two other men as having taken part.

There was also no evidence linking Strickland to the crime and he provided an alibi for where he was at the time.

“Strickland was convicted solely on the eyewitness testimony of Douglas, who subsequently recanted her statements,” the judge said.

“Under these unique circumstances, the Court’s confidence in Strickland’s conviction is so undermined that it cannot stand, and the judgment of conviction must be set aside.

“The Court hereby orders Strickland’s immediate release.”

Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker welcomed the decision.

“This brings justice - finally - to a man who has tragically suffered so so greatly as a result of this wrongful conviction,” Baker said in a statement.

Strickland’s case was championed by The Midwest Innocence Project of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, which advocates on behalf of wrongfully convicted people.