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Missouri governor: Pardon of 4-decade inmate not a priority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says addressing the clemency petition for Kevin Strickland is not a “priority,” even though prosecutors say Strickland didn’t commit the triple murder that put him behind bars more than four decades ago.

Parson has a backlog of about 3,000 clemency requests, the Kansas City Star reported.

“When something like that comes up, we look at those cases, but I don’t know that that necessarily makes it a priority to jump in front of the line,” Parson said during a Monday news conference. “We understand some cases are going to draw more attention through the media than others, but we’re just going to look at those things.”

Parson noted that Strickland, 62, was tried “by a jury of his peers” and found guilty. But he added that he knew there was “a lot more information out there.”

Several state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle signed a letter seeking a pardon for Strickland, who has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in the April 1978 deaths of three people in Kansas City.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has called for his release. Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Missouri, Jackson County’s presiding judge, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and members of the team that convicted Strickland also have said he deserves to be exonerated.

The Star reported in September that two men who pleaded guilty in the killings for decades swore Strickland was not with them and two other accomplices during the shooting. The only eyewitness also recanted and wanted Strickland released.

Strickland applied for clemency Tuesday, saying he does not want a commutation of his sentence. Anything less than a full pardon “would leave an unjust and undeserved stain on my criminal record,” he wrote.

“Through a full pardon, you have the power not only to correct my wrongful conviction, but also to ensure that my innocence is finally recognized,” Strickland wrote.

The Associated Press