Ricky Kidd

Ricky Kidd, 44, walked out of a Missouri prison on Thursday, August 15, after serving 23 years for a 1996 robbery and double murder that a judge recently ruled that he didn’t commit.

“I am very angry, and I continue to be,” Kidd said outside the prison upon his release, the Kansas City Star reported. “We all need to be angry – taxpayers who foot the bill for 23 years paying for the wrong person to be in prison, while the real individuals are out there. We should be angry about that and should also be willing to do something about it,”

Kidd’s previous petitions to the federal courts repeatedly failed. This April, Kidd, who was represented by attorneys with the Midwest Innocence Project, finally got a hearing before DeKalb County Circuit Judge Daren L. Adkins. In his August 14 ruling, the judge found that the “evidence is clear and convincing that Kidd is innocent of the murders of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges.”

Kidd was released the next day from the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has 30 days to file for a new trial.

Kidd’s release follows the cases of Darryl Burton, who served 24 years in prison for a murder in St. Louis he didn’t commit. Joe Amrine served 17 years. Both innocent men found no relief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet both Missourians are free now.

In a 2012 conference call with The St. Louis American, Kidd said from prison, “I had the worst representation that you could possibly get. The facts of my case have always been true. Unfortunately, I am uncovering the rubble now.”

Kidd’s case

On February 6, 1996, three men wearing black skull caps robbed and murdered George Bryant and Oscar Bridges at Bryant’s home in Kansas City, Missouri, according to court documents.

Bryant’s four-year-old daughter, Kayla Bryant, witnessed the crime.

Although there were three perpetrators, only Ricky Kidd and Marcus Merrill were charged with the crime. Kayla Bryant said the men who shot her father had come to her house two days before the shooting, according to the petition.

During the trial, Kayla identified Marcus Merrill as one of the three men. The prosecutor asked Kayla twice if she saw the man who shot her daddy in the courtroom, and both times she replied, “No.” When shown a photo array that included both Marcus Merrill and Ricky Kidd, she selected only Merrill, as the “fat one.”

Kidd became a suspect because he was one of 10 men named in anonymous calls to police. He was arrested on February 14, 1996, while in the company of his girlfriend, Monica Gray. In separate interrogations, Kidd and Gray told police that they were together all day on February 6, 1996, and they had gone to the sheriff’s office at Lake Jacomo to apply for a gun permit.

The only direct testimony linking Kidd to the crime came from Richard Harris, who lived on the same street. Harris was walking by Bryant’s house when he saw Bryant run out of his garage, with blood on his sweater, yelling, “Somebody help!” Bryant was pursued by two men, one of whom carried a gold-plated pistol.

The first suspect grabbed Bryant and put him on the ground, and the second suspect walked up to Bryant and shot him. When the attackers saw Harris, he turned and fled. Harris identified Ricky Kidd at trial as the shooter, though there were inconsistencies in his description that didn’t match up to Kidd.

No physical evidence linked Kidd to the crime. The murder weapon was never found. A slice of bread on the kitchen floor and a piece of linoleum recovered from the crime scene bore shoe impressions that did not match the footwear of George Bryant, Oscar Bridges or Ricky Kidd.

Kidd’s alibi

Jackson County Sergeant Tim Buffalow has identified a copy of Kidd’s application to buy a gun, signed by Kidd and dated February 6, 1996, the day of the murder.

Computer files show that a criminal record check was run on Kidd at 1:37 p.m. that day. On cross-examination by the state, Buffalow testified that Kidd’s application could have been received on February 5, 1996. Kidd’s lawyer never tried to obtain the VHS surveillance tapes at the sheriff’s office.

Gary Goodspeed Sr. (“Big Gary”) and Gary Goodspeed Jr. (“Little Gary”) were never charged with the crime, but evidence implicated both.

Richard Harris identified Little Gary from a video line-up as the man who tackled Bryant as he ran from his garage. Merrill and Little Gary shared an apartment in Decatur, Georgia, and airline and hotel records established that Merrill and the Goodspeeds flew from Atlanta to Kansas City several days before the homicide, stayed at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, and returned to Georgia several days later. At Alamo Rent-A-Car near the airport, Big Gary rented a white Oldsmobile Sierra that was believed to be the getaway car. Big Gary’s fingerprint was on a Carmex lip balm wrapper found in the rental car with a price tag from a “Good To Go” convenience store a block and a half from the crime scene.

Merrill’s counsel argued to the jury that the Goodspeeds committed the crime, and since the police developed four suspects in a crime committed by three people, the issue was whether Merrill or Kidd was the third accomplice.

Merrill and Kidd were found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree. Kidd was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for each murder, and life imprisonment on each count of armed criminal action.

“We’re excited that he is home,” said Tricia Rojo Bushnell, director of the Midwest Innocence Project. “It shouldn’t take 23 years to get an innocent man out. Unfortunately, until the prosecutor drops charges, he’s still waiting for full justice.”

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