Criminal Justice

This Innocent Man Spent 23 Years Behind Bars. He's Suing the Police Who Put Him There.

Ricky Kidd wants accountability.


Ricky Kidd seemed strangely confident for a man who had languished behind bars for 23 years. "While I may fall in the cracks of legal terms or certain legal impediments, my facts will hold up," Kidd told Reason in 2019. "I'm certain of that."

They did, in fact, hold up. His confidence makes more sense in the context of his 1997 convictions for a double-murder, which were only secured after police in Kansas City, Missouri, left a trail of misconduct. In August of 2019, a judge granted him habeas corpus relief and vacated those convictions, with the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office dismissing the charges shortly thereafter.

Kidd is now suing, alleging that the government should pay for the incompetence it displayed in imprisoning him for over two decades, even though the evidence consistently pointed to his innocence.

"The unlawful, intentional, willful, deliberately indifferent, and reckless acts and omissions of the individual Defendants, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Board [of Police Commissioners] caused Kidd to be improperly arrested and imprisoned, unfairly tried, wrongfully convicted, and forced to serve 23 years in prison for crimes he did not commit," notes the suit.

In 1996, Kidd was charged with murdering George Bryant and Oscar Bridges; he was convicted in March of the following year. As Zuri Davis and Joe Setyon previously reported for Reason, his guilty verdict hinged on a man named Richard Harris implicating him. But Harris was not a credible witness: He was on parole for drug charges and was hoping to arrange a reward for aiding in the investigation. His story has since changed multiple times.

Also core to his conviction was the information allegedly provided by a 4-year-old. Bryant's daughter Kayla, who was present during the murder, unequivocally declined to identify Kidd when asked by police if he was involved. Yet after talking to Harris, cops returned to Bryant and showed her another video lineup. They then "falsely reported that Kayla had made a compelling and theatrical identification of Kidd," notes the suit. Amy McGowan, the lead prosecutor, conceded in 2017 that "there is no physical evidence tying [Kidd] to the crime scene."

Evidence does, however, incriminate Gary Goodspeed Sr., who had a violent criminal history, and his son Gary Goodspeed Jr. In a 2009 federal hearing, Marcus Merrill, who was also tried and convicted in 1997, confessed to his role in the killings. And he implicated Goodspeed Sr.

Kidd had a solid alibi. During the time of the murder, he was applying for a gun permit. That's important for a few reasons. Most importantly, it shows he couldn't have been at the crime scene. But also relevant is the activity itself: "Even the dumbest of criminals probably wouldn't have done something like that" on the day of a murder, said Alvin Brooks, who was a top cop with the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) prior to the incident.

Individual KCPD officers named in the claim include George Barrios, David Bernard, Kent Morton, Jay Pruetting, Ronald Russell, and Jay Thompson, all of whom allegedly played a role in botching the investigation. Kidd's request for damages includes compensation for the "loss of his freedom for 23 years," "loss of his youth," and "pain and suffering," including the deprivation "of his familial relationships" and "his relationships with his four children."

"There's an unspoken and perhaps unconscious desire to maintain the illusion that the system works pretty well, rarely makes mistakes, and when those mistakes happen, they're understandable mistakes that are, in effect, inevitable," says Clark Neily, senior vice president for legal studies at the Cato Institute. "The complaint…really threatens, I think, the plausibility of that impression."

This is not the first time that police, prosecutors, and the justice system in Missouri writ large have failed people. As I wrote last week, several men—who were convicted of separate, unrelated crimes—are currently stuck behind bars in the state, even though various government actors have admitted that they were all wrongfully convicted. They include Christopher Dunn, Lamar Johnson, and Kevin Strickland, the latter of whom is also from Jackson County. Not unlike Kidd, all three were convicted based on the flimsy identifications of unreliable witnesses—including one who conceded to accepting payment from police—and sans physical evidence.

Whether or not Kidd will get any financial compensation remains to be seen, but the government will almost surely put up a fight. The city may attempt to hide behind the Monell doctrine, for example, which only allows victims to sue municipalities when they can furnish a city policy that explicitly precipitated the misbehavior in question. And the individual officers can try their hand at claiming qualified immunity, the legal principle that shields state actors from lawsuits if they violate your rights in a way that has not been explicitly ruled unconstitutional in a prior court ruling. It has protected officials for a wide variety of rogue behavior, including stealing, throwing explosives into an innocent person's house, killing a man who had been sleeping, and shooting a 10-year-old, among others.

In other words, though Ricky Kidd lost 23 years of his life, it is unclear whether he will have the privilege to state his claim before a jury—not because it's not an obvious miscarriage of justice, but because the government can hide behind shields not available to private citizens.

"Government defendants, law enforcement defendants are very adept at deploying these defenses that ensure in many cases that no one ever takes a look at the merits of the case," says Neily. "They're very adept at ensuring that plaintiffs with meritorious cases—plaintiffs who have absolutely had their rights violated by the police and have suffered egregious consequences as a result, like Ricky Kidd—never get a day in court."

So while Kidd remains confident in his case, and in the facts that ultimately exonerated him, he has learned one big lesson: He can take no such comfort in the system.

NEXT: The Cuomo Pandemic Scandal No One Is Talking About

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  1. Why does not the media consider this a scandal?

    1. To their credit, Reason does.

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      3. Yeah they’re true champions of the persecuted alright. Once every 10 years or so when they can either find or concoct a “look what the white man did the poor darkie” narrative around some pawn in their race-obsessed cultural Marxism.

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      4. Binion does, I don’t remember much of the Davis piece, but remember the generally poor writing that Davis pumped out. So, not Reason, per se, but one writer.

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      6. And ONLY Reason. The story is completely ignored in the Google smorgasbord from the looter press.

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    3. Because Black Lives only Matter for their votes.

  2. Not kidding when I say that sucked for Ricky. Hope he is able to sue the police involved.

  3. Thank goodness the officers are available for lawsuit.

  4. As long as the police have to pay and not the tax payers that’s good

  5. It makes me sick how government officials abuse their power and are not held accountable. The MSM should do a better job reporting these travesties of justice.

    One day, some guy who lost decades in jail because of some lying cops, DA, and/or informants is going to go Quentin Tarantino on their asses and blow some of those mothers away. Not that I think that is the way to go, but abusers bring that kind of reaction on themselves. It’s happened in movies and it’s probably already happened in real life.

    1. I hipe it happens more often.

      If this is the only way to get justice, so be it.

      1. Fortunately enough for the political class, these retarded simpletons just chimp out, kill each other, and burn down their neighbor’s fast food franchise when they get pissed off.

  6. The only problem I have with this is that the police arrested him, but they didn’t put him in prison for 23 years. You need a prosecutor, a judge, and a jury to do that. Where is their accountability?

    1. Punishing juries for coming to the “wrong” conclusion is surely a good solution.

    2. The jury only knows what is presented in court by the prosecution and defense. They is no practical way to determine the validity of what was presented.

    3. the jury can ONLY deal with the information put in front of them during the trial. Unless, in tis case, the man cn PROVE the jury knew information was bogus or clearly unreliable, the jury have no fault. They can only process that which is put in front of them

      Now, that places the burden squarely on the shulders of the prosecutors and corrypt/lying “witnesses”.

      the Biblical penalty for anyone who bears false witness” is that the liar suffer the same conseuqueces laid upon the wrongly convicted man, or what WOULD have rfa;len to him had the false witness been believed.

      SO.. the lying cops would wpend 23 years behind bars, for starters. EACH of the lying witnnesses would as well. The prosecutor, if it can reasonalby be shown he was “in on the lies” will get the same. EACH of the cops who tried to fake witness tesimpny, who convnced witnesses to lie, who hid evidence that exonerated (like the FACT that at the time in question HE was off trying to get his gun mermit, and thus NOT at the scene of the alledged murder. Those who know about that and failed to speak up should also get their 23 years.

      If THAT were to become the norm, I guarantee you there would not be one case of perjury a year anywhere in the US. the risk/reward equation is far too tipped agaisnt the liars.

  7. Ryan Samsel deserved to lose an eye for trespassing on our holy ground though.
    Ashli Babbitt deserved summary execution for trespassing on our holy ground though.
    LaVoy Finicum deserved to be shot 20 times with his hands in the air for trespassing on sacred ground though.

    Fuck you. You have zero credibility on this subject. You support state-sponsored race-based cold blooded murder in furtherance of your psychotic Marxist political goals. You couldn’t give a fuck about any this guy except that you can use it as a racial wedge issue, you pathetic racist pieces of shit.

  8. His story has since changed multiple times.

    Changing stories indicate the final version is true. Haven’t you heard?

  9. Giving any elected or public officials blanket immunity for their actions in the public sphere is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Immunity just makes those officials despots who abuse their power and authority. Judges and prosecutors who ignore Constitutional Rights are guilty of Capital Felony Treason. They ALL need to be held accountable, see:

  10. Remember, also, that every time the wrong guy gets sent to jail, that means the right guy went free, and could do it again. So it’s a double injustice.

  11. The best of luck to Ricky. He will need all the luck that he can get.

  12. Claire McCaskill was Jackson County Prosecutor from 1993 to 1998. Great job, Claire!

  13. I know a man who spent five years in prison in Missoury on concocted charges of child abuse and molestation who was innocent. A crooked CPS worker, equally crooked (team-mate” prosecutor and a bought off judge all conspired to do this to him. Once the lies were exposed, he was released and charges dropped.. but he still lost five years with his family and friends. The liars who put him there, as far as we can learn, have thus far not seen a nanogramme of justice. THEY all need to lay out the same five years he was forced to.

  14. This case does seem egregious but we’ve seen the consequences of delegitimizing the entire criminal justice system based on these outliers. Did murders go up or down after the George Floyd riots and “defund the police” movement?

  15. Unlike many whose guilt was admitted, the man protested innocence and reasonable doubt abounted–albeit ignored by the entrenched looter soft machine. But this need not mean open season on tax hostages to fund a life of leisure for murderers whose guilt is admitted or proven beyond peradventure. Deleting all post-Gary changes to the LP platform would restore positions worth 3.28% of the vote plus another 80% per annum. And we should beware of infiltrators bearing planks voters clearly ID as sabotage.

  16. I’m sure that some bright attorney for the cops will find that their malfeasance happened on a Tuesday, and that since no other instance of identical malfeasance happened on a Tuesday, that the cops ought to be immune from any sort of legal action.

    And the court will, most likely, agree.

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