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Ruling on who will hear Strickland motion expected Friday

A decision is expected Friday on whether judges in Jackson County should be disqualified from hearing court arguments that could determine whether a man is released from prison after serving more than 40 years for a triple murder in Kansas City.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office has asked that the Jackson County judges be removed from the case of Kevin Strickland because of perceived bias in Strickland’s favor.

At a hearing on Monday, Judge Kevin Harrell heard the attorneys for the attorney general argue that he should remove himself and disqualify other Jackson County judges because the circuit’s presiding judge, Dale Youngs, previously said he agrees Strickland should be exonerated, The Kansas City Star reported.

Harrell said he would announce his decision on Friday.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced in May that she believed Strickland was wrongfully convicted in the 1978 murders and should be freed. She said at the time that Youngs supports Strickland’s release.

Using a new state law, Peters Baker filed a motion seeking an evidentiary hearing that would allow a judge to determine if Strickland would be exonerated and released.

Schmitt’s office cited Youngs’ support in arguing that the Jackson County judges should be removed from hearing the case. Presiding judges oversee administration of the circuit court.

Jackson County prosecutors and Strickland’s lawyers argued Youngs’ opinion does not represent the opinion of every judge in the circuit and they should not all be disqualified.

Schmitt’s office has also asked that the case be moved from criminal to civil court. Harrell said he’ll announce his ruling on that motion on Friday.

Strickland, of Kansas City, was 18 when he was arrested in the April 25, 1978, deaths of Larry Ingram, 21; John Walker, 20; and Sherrie Black, 22, during a home invasion. Peters Baker said two men who admitted to the killings have said Strickland wasn’t there and the only witness who identified Strickland as the killer recanted her testimony before she died.

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