KC Freedom Project holds rally outside Missouri Attorney General’s Kansas City office

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — Members of the KC Freedom Project say the Missouri Attorney General’s duty is “to seek justice, not to defend prior convictions.”

The group held a rally Monday outside of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office in Kansas City.

“It is wrong for the Missouri Attorney General to uphold wrongful convictions when evidence of innocence exists,” KC Freedom Project founder Lathara Smith said. “Innocence in Missouri is not enough.”

Relatives who are fighting to prove a family member’s innocence joined the rally Monday, including Cliff Middleton, whose father Ken Middleton was convicted of shooting and killing his wife Kathy Middleton in 1990.

“My father’s wrongful conviction 30 years ago is why I’m here unfortunately,” Cliff Middleton said.

Ken Middleton was the focus of several KCTV5 News investigations.

“What we’re trying to bring awareness to is that procedural issues should not take precedence over innocence. Innocence should always matter first,” Cliff Middleton said. “I think with this new law being in place, with Jean Peters Baker being able to take a case back into court, where it can be heard with no procedural issues, you get to have all the facts put forward.”

Supporters who attended the rally said they are hopeful a new Missouri law will be used by prosecutors to exonerate innocent people.

“I want my son home so bad. It’s been so many years.” Nathan Hawkins’s mother Betty Mayfield said. “He went when he was 18-years-old. He’s 41 years old now. So, we lost all that time. It’s time that we can’t get back.”

Mayfield is also hopeful for a new evidentiary hearing for her son.

“We have some new evidence that is leading to self-defense like he said from day one,” Mayfield said.

Under the new Missouri law, prosecutors have the authority to ask for a hearing if they have new evidence that a person may have been wrongfully convicted. The law was used for the first time to release Kevin Strickland.

“I believe that’s a game changer for wrongful convictions,” Cliff Middleton said.

A spokesperson for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt declined to comment on Monday’s rally in Kansas City. Following a judge’s ruling to release Strickland, Schmitt’s office released a statement that said, “In this case, we defended the rule of law and the decision that a jury of Mr. Strickland’s peers made after hearing all of the facts in the case. The Court has spoken, no further action will be taken in this matter.”