In 1996, Ricky Kidd was wrongfully convicted of the double-homicide of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges in Kansas City, Missouri. Witnesses to the crime testified that three men entered Bryant’s home in the middle of the day. The two victims were found dead, Bridges in the basement and Bryant in the street outside his home. Bryant’s 4-year-old daughter was discovered alive in a closet inside the house. Ricky became the lead suspect in the case after an anonymous tip came in naming him as one of the killers; evidence suggests this phone tip may have been called in by one of the actual perpetrators. Ricky had what should have been an airtight alibi for the crime: he was at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Lake Jacomo Office at the time of the murders, filling out an application for a gun permit.
Ricky and co-defendant Marcus Merrill were charged with the crime. Merrill had flown to Kansas City from Atlanta shortly before the murder with two individuals, Gary Goodspeed, Sr., and Gary Goodspeed, Jr. The three of them—Merrill and the Goodspeeds—alibied themselves together at the time of the crime. Although all evidence indicated three perpetrators were involved, the State never charged a third person or attempted to bring a third person to justice.
Ricky was tried jointly with Merrill, who later confessed to being a real perpetrator in the crime, along with the Goodspeeds. Unfortunately, Ricky received woefully inadequate counsel. Ricky’s attorney failed to, among other things, investigate Ricky’s solid and verifiable alibi; request a separate trial from Merrill, which would have more accurately presented the lack of evidence against Ricky; and perhaps most damning, failed to object to Merrill’s attorney’s claim that Ricky’s fingerprint was found in the getaway car, when in fact, Ricky’s fingerprint was only found in his own car. Both Ricky Kidd and Marcus Merrill were convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
Ricky continued to maintain his innocence, exhausted his state appeals, and moved to the federal district court. Represented by UMKC law professor Sean O’Brien in his federal habeas proceedings, Ricky’s innocence became clear. Investigation revealed that Merrill and the Goodspeeds had committed the crime together, accounting for all three perpetrators—leaving Ricky the odd man out. Merrill’s compelling testimony that it was he and the Goodspeeds alone that committed the crime was presented to a federal judge. Physical and other evidence corroborated Merrill’s testimony. Unfortunately, because of the Eighth’s Circuit legal standard stating that evidence cannot be “new” if it was able to be discovered at the time of trial, Ricky was denied relief.
Ricky has spent the last 20 years fighting to prove his innocence from inside prison walls. The Midwest Innocence Project, along with co-counsel Sean O’Brien and Cindy Dodge, now represent Ricky Kidd in his last hopes for freedom. In November 2013, Ricky’s team filed for DNA testing of evidence that could reveal that it was the Goodspeeds, and not Ricky, who were at the crime scene. In his filing, Ricky’s team explained that DNA from either of the Goodspeeds would be enough to prove his innocence—again, at the time of the crime, the Goodspeeds and Merrill alibied themselves together. Indeed, all evidence pointed to their collective guilt. However, because the addition of one Goodspeed meant the addition of both, neither of them have been brought to justice: To charge the Goodspeeds without recognizing Ricky’s innocence would bring the count of perpetrators to four. In February 2016, the court ordered DNA testing. While testing is underway, MIP filed a Rule 91 petition on Ricky’s behalf, outlining his innocence and asking for his immediate release.
On December 6, 2016, Kansas City Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks told Governor Nixon that Ricky Kidd is innocent and that we know who really committed the crime. Read Mr. Brooks’s letter here.
The Midwest Innocence Project has filed the documents below on behalf of Ricky:
- 2016.02.10 Order for Post-Conviction DNA Testing
- 2016.01.04 Reply to Respondent’s Suggestions in Opposition
- 2015.10.05 State’s Response to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
- 2015.03.06 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
- 2015.03.05 Suggestions in Support of Defendant’s Motion for Postconviction DNA Testing
Rodney Lincoln was wrongfully convicted of the murder of JoAnn Tate and an attack on her two young daughters that occurred on April 27, 1982. At trial, Mr. Lincoln presented a solid alibi defense, however, the State relied on now discredited forensic evidence and the suggestive identification of a traumatized young victim to secure his conviction. For over 34 years, Mr. Lincoln has maintained his innocence. Mr. Lincoln recently wrote a poem about the time he’s spent as an innocent man in prison.
Mr. Lincoln was convicted in part because of the testimony of a crime lab analyst who testified that a hair found on a blanket at the crime scene “matched” Mr. Lincoln’s hair. DNA testing conducted over a decade later determined that the hair did not come from Mr. Lincoln. The surviving victim, M.D. (referred to by her initials to protect her privacy), the only eyewitness in the case, has since recanted her identification of Mr. Lincoln and supports his exoneration and release. Additional documents previously withheld by the State now reveal that on several occasions, social workers and state actors also collaborated with the prosecutor’s office to prepare M.D. for trial, including identifying the chair where ‘the Bad Man’ would sit and rehearsing M.D.’s testimony.
The Midwest Innocence Project now represents Mr. Lincoln in his last hope for freedom. On June 16, 2016, Judge Green of the Cole County Circuit Court denied Mr. Lincoln relief on his claims of innocence. The decision came just one day after Judge Green denied Mr. Lincoln furlough to attend the funeral of his 23-year-old granddaughter who had been shot and killed earlier that week. On July 12, 2016, MIP filed an appeal with the Western District of Missouri. The Court of Appeals denied relief on October 11, 2016, finding that innocence is not a claim in non-death penalty cases.
On December 5, 2016, M.D. asked Governor Nixon for Mr. Lincoln’s release. Read her letter asking for clemency.
MIP is continuing to fight for Mr. Lincoln’s freedom. We encourage you to read these documents to learn more about Mr. Lincoln’s story and the issues involved in his case.
- 2016.12.08 Healing Justice Amicus Curiae in Support of Transfer
- 2016.12.07 Motion For Transfer to Missouri Supreme Court
- 2016.10.26 Motion for Rehearing or Transfer
- 2016.10.11 Lincoln Opinion
- 2016.08.01 Reply to Response to Show Cause Order
- 2016.07.13 Motion to Expedite
- 2016.07.12 Lincoln Petition for Habeas Corpus (WDMO)
- 2016.06.16 Order Denying Petition for Habeas Corpus
- 2015.12.17 Lincoln Petition for Habeas Corpus
- 2016.01.22 State Response to Order to Show Cause
- 2016.02.22 Lincoln Reply to Response to Show Cause Order
Latest news – #FREERODNEYLINCOLN
- Press release regarding clemency
- Missouri Lawyers Weekly: Innocence Claim Not Enough In Non-Death Penalty Case
- Press release regarding WDMO appeal
- Press release regarding Judge Green’s Denial of Habeas Petition
- STL Today: Judge rejects appeal of Rodney Lincoln in 1982 St. Louis murder
- Fox2Now: Judge could toss murder conviction in Rodney Lincoln case next week
- Fox2Now: Convicted murderer could be freed after key witness recants testimony
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Witness to mother’s 1982 murder in St. Louis tells judge imprisoned man didn’t do it