- Exonerated: August 15, 2019
- County of Conviction: Jackson County, MO
- Convicted of: First-degree murder and armed criminal action
- Sentence: Life in prison without parole
- Years Served: 23+
In the midst of his 23-year wrongful incarceration, Ricky Kidd didn’t see much of the open road.
There were times he had to leave the prison for medical care and got to travel — but that meant being shackled in the back of a van. The guards driving him would stop for coffee and sandwiches, and Ricky would just have to sit in the back, handcuffed, watching them eat, and watching the rest of the outside world flash by.
During those times, he would think to himself how badly he wanted to just get behind the wheel of a car and drive down the highway. It’s such a simple act, but it was one stripped from him for more than two decades after he was wrongfully convicted for a 1996 double murder he did not commit.
After years of losing court battles, Ricky finally walked free in August of 2019. And now he gets to drive those same roads, with the independence of a free man.
“The pleasure of getting behind a steering wheel and riding the highways of this country – that’s been a total delight,” he said. “I get to spread this awareness, educate and inspire, and then get behind the steering wheel and take it all across the world.”
In his time after wrongful incarceration, Ricky has dedicated himself to innocence work: public speaking, social media campaigns, and advocacy work on behalf of those still waiting in prison for justice. He sits on the national Innocence Network board, and started his company I Am Resilience, which he uses to promote the message of justice and raise awareness for the wrongfully incarcerated.
But one of his favorite parts has been the driving. One year after his release, in 2020, he and his wife took a “freedom lap,” where they drove across more than 20 states, speaking and raising awareness of both Ricky’s story, and the stories of those still in prison.
The world opened up again around Ricky — years after the criminal legal system shut it down for him.
Ricky was arrested in 1996 for the shooting deaths of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges in Kansas City, despite the fact he had an alibi at the time of the crime (he was with his girlfriend all day and had gone to the sheriff’s office to apply for a gun permit). His public defender never presented his alibi at trial. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. An eyewitness — Bryant’s daughter, only 4 years old at the time — had chosen Ricky out of a lineup, but the lineup went against all standards for eyewitness identification.
It took decades of Ricky’s life before the truth came to light: he had been mistaken for his uncle, Gary Goodspeed, one of the true killers.
And while Ricky will never get those 23 years back, he’s now doing everything he can to make up for lost time, and to prevent others from having to go through the same.
He’s rediscovering who he is outside of his wrongful incarceration — what hobbies he enjoys, where he likes to travel, what he likes to do.
But one thing is constant, and that is his desire to advocate for justice. He remembers what it was like to be shackled in the back of a van, watching the free world go by the windows. He remembers what it was like to have his whole life shut down in front of him. And he wants to work to keep others from having to go through the same.
“I was given life without parole, so everything I do now, I’m reminded of everything they said you would never have,” he said. “You’re never going to drive a car again. You’re never going to take a bath. You’re never going to sink your feet into nice carpet. You’re never going to be able to raise a family, or make a contribution to society. Everything I do, that’s where that fire comes from – it’s everything you told me I would never do again.”