I just spent my first year as a free man after being wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 23 years. AMA
I'm Ricky Kidd. In 1997, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for double homicide — a crime I didn’t commit. I couldn’t afford a lawyer, and the public defender I was assigned didn’t have time or the resources to prove my innocence. I spent 23 years behind bars trying to prove the things my public defender should have found in the first place. In August of 2019, a judge ruled that I was innocent and released me. After I got out, I started "I Am Resilience," an organization that raises awareness about those who have been wrongly convicted. Last month, I got married and, in December, we're expecting a baby daughter.
And I’m Sean O’Brien, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. With the help of UMKC clinical students and my co-counsel, Cindy Dodge, I represented Ricky for more than a decade and eventually got him released last year. I’ve spent decades working to overturn wrongful convictions, especially for inmates on death row. Before that I was the chief public defender in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1985 through 1989.
Ricky’s story and how it illustrates the greater crisis in America’s public defender systems was the subject of a PBS NewsHour podcast called “Broken Justice,” released last year. In October, about a year after Ricky was released, producer Frank Carlson checked in with him for a special episode. Subscribe, download and leave a comment wherever you get your podcasts.
Ricky: I’m happy that we had this time! It is always fun to be with the PBS NewsHour team, along with the one individual who first believed in me, who ultimately never left my side until I came home. A fun and exciting year it has been and looking forward to the next chapter with I Am Resilience/new baby/marriage/purposed living. Feel free to listen to "Broken Justice" if you haven’t had a chance, and if you would like to support and participate in the next chapter forward for me, feel free to follow this link and share as much as possible: https://linktr.ee/IAR
Sean: In closing: Until we reform indigent defense systems, this story will play out over and over again. There are lots of ways to get involved, and lots of good people trying to change the system. Find out who is doing the work in your community, and support them. Sister Helen Prejean says if all you can do is bake a pie, bake a pie and bring it to a meeting! I'm happy to say Ricky's team was kept well-fed by people who care.