Editorials

Ricky Kidd spent 22 years in prison for murder he didn’t commit. He should go free now

Ricky Kidd innocent in double homicide, judge says

A judge ruled Wednesday that a man convicted in a 1996 double homicide is innocent. The judge's order said evidence points to the true perpetrators of the crime.
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A judge ruled Wednesday that a man convicted in a 1996 double homicide is innocent. The judge's order said evidence points to the true perpetrators of the crime.

After more than 20 years, it’s time for the criminal justice system to right a grievous wrong that robbed an innocent man of two decades of his life.

Ricky Kidd was wrongfully convicted of a 1996 double murder in Kansas City that he did not commit. He was sentenced in May 1997 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On Wednesday, DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Daren Adkins found Kidd innocent and ordered that he be released or retried within 30 days.

“Surely the incarceration of a prisoner in the absence of any substantial or persuasive evidence of guilt is a fundamental miscarriage of justice,” Adkins wrote. It is indeed.

The judge, who cited unreliable witness testimony and other factors in his ruling, also said the state withheld evidence in the case, a clear violation of Kidd’s rights.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office plans to review the case immediately to determine appropriate next steps.

“Our obligation here as with every case is to seek the truth,” Baker said in a statement shortly after the ruling was made public.

The Missouri attorney general’s office, which handled the petition for release, declined to comment Wednesday.

For Kidd, who can’t recover the 22 years he lost behind bars, justice cannot come soon enough. He has always maintained his innocence, and now, as the judge found, it’s clear that the wrong man was convicted of murder.

“There is actual evidence that (Kidd) did not commit a crime,” said Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Missouri Innocence Project, which led Kidd’s post-conviction relief effort. “We knew it then, and we know it now.”

Kidd and Marcus Merrill were charged with murder in 1996 after three men fled the scene of a robbery and double homicide. George Bryant and Oscar Bridges were found fatally shot at a house on Monroe Avenue and 70th Street near Swope Park.

A lack of physical evidence tying Kidd to the crime convinced former Kansas City Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks and Cindy Dodge, a former prosecutor and one of Kidd’s attorneys, of his innocence.

Kidd’s alibi that he was with his girlfriend Monica Gray at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department obtaining a gun permit when the murders took place was corroborated by documents from the sheriff’s office and independent witnesses.

Prosecutors ignored those facts at trial, and a jury convicted Kidd.

A witness later recanted his testimony identifying Kidd as the gunman. And Merrill swore in a deposition that he and Gary Goodspeed Jr. and Gary Goodspeed Sr. committed the crime — not Kidd.

The judge found that the evidence establishing the guilt of Merrill, Goodspeed Sr. and Goodspeed Jr. was corroborated by Merrill’s confession, additional testimony, documents placing the three men in Kansas City together at the time of the crime, and the Goodspeeds’ own sworn testimony.

As the judge said, the evidence that Kidd did not commit the crime is clear and convincing. And as Baker herself said on Wednesday, a prosecutor not only has a duty to seek justice, but to seek the truth.

Kidd should not be retried, and after 22 years, he should walk out of a state penitentiary a free man.

Even then, Kidd would not be eligible for monetary relief from the state because he was not exonerated through DNA testing — yet another injustice. But securing his freedom is the first priority.

Authorities know who the real killers are. And Ricky Kidd did not commit this crime. Why should he spend another day in prison?

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