‘We should be angry’: Ricky Kidd free from prison, fought for years to prove innocence

Ricky Kidd speaks publicly for the first time since being released from prison

Ricky Kidd was released from prison Thursday, after serving more than 20 years in prison for a 1996 double murder he did not commit.
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Ricky Kidd was released from prison Thursday, after serving more than 20 years in prison for a 1996 double murder he did not commit.

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the state of Missouri decided not to retry Kidd on the murder charges. A spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Thursday the agency is still deciding.

Elated. Grateful. Angry.

They were all emotions Ricky Kidd said he felt when he walked out of a Missouri prison Thursday, free at last after serving more than 20 years for a 1996 double murder he did not commit.

Kidd, 44, was released a day after a judge ruled that Kidd was clearly innocent. The state indicated it had no objection to Kidd’s release “pending further proceedings.”

The state was given 30 days to decide whether or not it will retry the case.

Kidd had been incarcerated for 23 years for a robbery and double murder, all the time maintaining his innocence as he exhausted appeals in state and federal court.

Outside the prison Thursday, Kidd said he was angry at having been wrongly convicted.

“I am very angry, and I continue to be,” Kidd said. “We all need to be angry, taxpayers who foot the bill for 23 years paying for the wrong person to be in prison, while the real individuals are out there.

“We should be angry about that, and should also be willing to do something about it,” Kidd said.

At the same time, Kidd said he was elated to be free and thankful for his supporters.

When Kidd was sent to prison in the mid-1990s, his girlfriend had been pregnant. On Thursday he hugged his daughter for the first time as a free man.

After so many years of frustration, Kidd’s freedom came quickly after a judge in DeKalb County on Wednesday said evidence of Kidd’s innocence was “clear and convincing.” The state was given two options: Release Kidd from prison, or retry the case in court within 30 days.

In an order filed Thursday in DeKalb County Circuit Court, Judge Daren L. Adkins said the state indicated it “had no objection to the Petitioner being released pending further proceedings.”

The judge ordered Kidd be released from custody “immediately.” He has been held at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.

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Ricky Kidd was released from prison Thursday after spending more than 20 years in prison for a 1996 double murder he didn’t commit. Kaitlyn Schwers - The Kansas City Star

Joining Kidd outside the prison Thursday, Sean O’Brien, who has represented Kidd since 2005, said the legal battle to prove Kidd’s innocence has been “like a sprint for years. ... A marathon that’s taken a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice.” The habeas corpus petition filed Wednesday does away with the conviction, O’Brien said, but the charge is still pending.

A spokesman from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said it was still reviewing the judge’s order from Wednesday and deciding on next steps.

But Kidd said the ruling issued Wednesday speaks for itself.

“This isn’t one of those cases where it’s close. Not at all,” Kidd told reporters. “To me, it never has been, and I think the judge came to a strong conclusion.”

1996 murder conviction

On Feb. 6, 1996, three men fled from the scene where George Bryant and Oscar Bridges were found fatally shot.

Kidd and Marcus Merrill were charged.

Kidd provided an alibi. He was with his girlfriend, and they had gone to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Lake Jacomo, where he filled out a gun permit application.

A copy of the application dated Feb. 6, 1996, was identified by an officer. No physical evidence linked Kidd to the murders.

But he was still convicted, as was Merrill. Kidd was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for each murder in 1997.

Later, an eyewitness recanted his testimony. Another witness, who was 4 years old, was found to have identified Kidd under “suggestive” circumstances, the order said.

The judge’s order Wednesday said evidence identifies Merrill, who confessed, Gary Goodspeed Jr. and Gary Goodspeed Sr. as the true perpetrators of the crime.

According to the Midwest Innocence Project, prosecutors withheld evidence when Kidd was tried. That information included depositions, taken in former assistant prosecutor Amy McGowan’s office, from the Goodspeeds that could have been used in Kidd’s defense.

Attempts to reach McGowan Thursday were not successful.

Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, which worked to exonerate Kidd, said Wednesday members of the group were ecstatic.

“It’s a long time coming,” she said. “It’s been over 20 years that Ricky Kidd has been in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and it’s incredibly meaningful that a court has recognized that today. We look forward to him coming home and being with his family.”

‘Just keep on fighting’

Kidd’s older sister, Nechelle “Nikki” Kidd, was one of the first to embrace Kidd after he talked with reporters Thursday. Surrounded by his family, including two of his older daughters and grandchildren, Nechelle Kidd said she looked forward to sitting down with her brother first thing Thursday night, “having a nice meal together and fellowship.”

As part of the conditions of Kidd’s release, Kidd has been ordered to stay in Missouri and reside with his sister in Kansas City.

Nechelle Kidd said the family has felt “a lot of frustration at times and disappointment” during the 20-plus years her brother has been behind bars, but she said she has worked to press through and move forward. “Just keep on fighting,” she said.

“We knew that this day would come, but it has been rough and a strain on us at times, just trying to make the visits to go see him, the transition when he went from this prison,” Nechelle Kidd said. “I’m just glad we’re at this moment now. I don’t know what to do. I just still can’t believe it.”

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Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.