Missouri Governor Pardons the Ignorant, But Not the Innocent

By Shani Saxon Aug 09, 2021

Missouri Governor Mike Parson moved quickly on August 3 to pardon Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the gun-wielding couple who proudly threatened the lives of Black Lives Matter protestors in August 2020. Kevin Strickland and Lamar Johnson, however, didn’t make Parson’s list of 12 pardons and two commutations, even though prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that their murder convictions were a mistake, Vice News reports. 

“It is beyond disgusting that Mark and Patricia McCloskey admitted they broke the law and within weeks are rewarded with pardons, yet men like Kevin Strickland, who has spent more than 40 years in prison for crimes even prosecutors now say he didn’t commit, remain behind bars with no hope of clemency,” Missouri State House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D), said in a statement.

Reports VICE:

The McCloskeys, of course, are thrilled with the governor, who’d made a political promise to spare them as they ascended to conservative stardom. Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault after pointing a rifle at the anti-racism protesters who marched past his St. Louis mansion last June, and Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment. Mark McCloseky is also running for a Senate seat in the state and scored a speaking slot alongside his wife at the Republican National Convention last year. 

Parson’s administration said in a statement that more pardons could be coming as he “has instructed his legal team to continue reviewing clemency files and working to reduce the backlog inherited by his administration,” VICE reports. That still didn’t stop advocates from pointing out the seemingly unfair treatment of Strickland and Johnson. 

According to VICE:

Strickland is currently locked up for a triple murder that even prosecutors say he didn’t commit, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.Yet after more than four decades in prison and a key witness in the case recanting her testimony, Parson said he wasn’t totally sold on prioritizing Strickland—who was convicted by an all-white jury. After all, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office still maintains that Strickland is guilty

Strickland has requested a full pardon and said that the Attorney General’s office “the power not only to correct my wrongful conviction, but also to ensure that my innocence is finally recognized,” according to the Post-Dispatch

Johnson has spent 26 years in prison for a murder that two other people have confessed to committing. “This case presents extraordinary circumstances and undeniably important questions fundamental to our justice system,” Johnson’s legal team wrote in a brief to the Missouri Supreme Court last year, as VICE reports. “The office responsible for prosecuting Lamar Johnson has determined, after an investigation spanning more than a year, that he is innocent by clear and convincing evidence.” The Missouri Supreme Court denied Johnson  a new trial in March, according to The Associate Press

The Ethical Society of Police, a St. Louis group founded by Black officers, responded to Parson’s list of pardons in a statement posted to Twitter. 

“Governor Parson granted 12 pardons and two of those people were Mark and Patricia McCloskey,” the statement read. “Missouri’s racist criminal justice system put two innocent black men (Kevin Strickland & Lamar Johnson) in prison, but the Gov chose to ignore them.”