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Prosecutor dismisses murder charges against once-convicted man

Scott Lauck//September 13, 2019

Prosecutor dismisses murder charges against once-convicted man

Scott Lauck//September 13, 2019

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has formally dismissed murder charges against a man declared innocent and freed from prison last month.

In August, a judge found clear and convincing evidence that Ricky Kidd was innocent of a 1996 double murder in Kansas City. Prosecutors had 30 days to opt to retry Kidd, but Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker said Friday that “the evidence is insufficient to proceed toward another trial.”

Ricky Kidd
Ricky Kidd was convicted of the 1996
shooting deaths of two men in Kansas
City despite having an alibi and no physical
evidence linking him to the crime.
Photo courtesy of the Midwest Innocence Project

“Our office must act as a minister of justice. We must ensure fairness to Mr. Kidd. And we must recognize that Mr. Kidd has already served 23 years in prison,” she said in a statement.

Kidd, along with a second man, Marcus Merrill, was convicted of the Feb. 6, 1996, shooting deaths of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges in Kansas City. Kidd had an alibi — at the time of the murders, Kidd and his girlfriend were filing an application for a gun transfer permit at the county sheriff’s office.

Although there was no physical evidence linking Kidd to the crime, a Jackson County jury convicted him based on witness identifications, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for each murder.

Merrill since has testified in federal court that he did take part in the crime but that the other perpetrators were two men related to Kidd. The two men were never charged.

In an Aug. 14 ruling, Judge Daren L. Adkins credited evidence identifying Merrill and the two alternative suspects as “the actual perpetrators of the crime.” He also found that Bryant’s daughter, then 4, identified Kidd as the killer only during a poorly conducted out-of-court interview, and that a man who witnessed the crime was unreliable.

In a court filing, the prosecutor’s office didn’t accept that Kidd was necessarily innocent of the crime.

“It is clear that the State can show both connections between Kidd and the other suspects involved in and around the time of murders, and discrepancies between Mr. Kidd’s original trial testimony and his most recent testimony,” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Dion Sankar wrote in the filing. “But, to move forward to trial, the State must be ready to present direct evidence that proves that Kidd was involved in the murders beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence of Kidd’s guilt is not frozen in time.”

The filing also noted Adkins’ finding that the prosecutor’s office had failed to notify Kidd’s trial attorney of depositions of the two alternative witnesses that a different attorney conducted shortly before Kidd’s trial.

“Through training and efforts to implement new and more efficient procedures this office will continue to strive to meet all of its disclosure obligations . . . so as to ensure that the rights of Defendants and Victims are fully and fairly adjudicated,” the dismissal filing says in a footnote.

In her statement, Baker said the “impact on any victim when the system fails is tragic.”

“When I met with the then-4-year-old witness, she recalled the drop of blood she saw on the kitchen floor shortly after hearing gunshots in her home all those years ago. She recounted that blood drop as if it were indelibly etched in her mind along with the loss of her father. She is clearly haunted by that day along with other members of her family,” she said, adding:

“In the end, the criminal justice system must demonstrate it always seeks to get it right.”

The Midwest Innocence Project represented Kidd in his habeas case.

“After 23 years, Ricky Kidd’s nightmare is finally over,” Tricia Bushnell, the organization’s director, said on Twitter after Friday’s announcement.

The case is State v. Kidd, 16CR9602137A.

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